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USGS - science for a changing world

Land Remote Sensing Program


The USGS is fostering the use of land remote sensing technology to meet local, national, and global challenges.

Urban Growth in Columbus, OhioHoluhraun Lava Flow, IcelandU.S. Harvest Nears CompletionOver 20 Million Landsat Scenes DownloadedUrban Growth of Maracaibo, VenezuelaHuang He Delta and Laizhou BayShasta Lake, CaliforniaMapping Biodiverse Highlands with Satellite Imagery and Elevation DataDetailed Elevation Data-Niger River DeltaZapata Peninsula
Urban Growth in Columbus, Ohio
These two images show Columbus and surrounding areas in 1986 and again in 2014.
Holuhraun Lava Flow, Iceland
Lava has been flowing spectacularly from the Holuhraun lava field, and the eruptive fissure has now spread lava across more than 70 square kilometers (27 square miles).
U.S. Harvest Nears Completion
These two Landsat images show the harvest activity and seasonal vegetation changes along the Platte River in south-central Nebraska.
Over 20 Million Landsat Scenes Downloaded
Since 2008, all Landsat data-archived and newly acquired-have been available for free download.
Urban Growth of Maracaibo, Venezuela
The city of Maracaibo, Venezuela, is located on the western shore of a strait that connects Lake Maracaibo to the Gulf of Venezuela.
Huang He Delta and Laizhou Bay
The Huang He (Yellow) River in China flows from the Bayan Har Mountains to the Bohai Sea.
Shasta Lake, California
These two Landsat images show the changing shoreline of Shasta Lake reservoir in northern California over the past three years.
Mapping Biodiverse Highlands with Satellite Imagery and Elevation Data
A team from the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center produced a detailed land use/land cover map of the highlands along the Senegal-Guinea border.
Detailed Elevation Data-Niger River Delta
Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) data had previously only been available worldwide at 90-meter resolution. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), NASA, and USGS are now releasing a newly processed, global SRTM 30-meter dataset.
Zapata Peninsula
The Zapata Peninsula is located in western Cuba. Most of this sparsely populated area lies within the Ciénaga de Zapata National Park and UNESCO-designated Biosphere Reserve.
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Remote Sensing Highlights

Christopher Justice and Landsat 8 Receive 2014 Pecora Awards

The Department of the Interior's U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and NASA presented the 2014 William T. Pecora Award for achievement in Earth remote sensing to Christopher O. Justice, professor and chair of geographical sciences at the University of Maryland, College Park, was honored for advancing the understanding of the Earth by means of remote sensing. The government and industry team that built and now operates Landsat 8, the latest in the Landsat series of satellites, was also acknowledged for their contributions to study of Earth's land surface and coastal regions.

Enhanced Elevation Data to Sharpen Global Focus on Climate Issues

September 23, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS, a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Interior) released a collection of higher-resolution (more detailed) elevation datasets for Africa. The datasets were released following the President's commitment at the United Nations to provide assistance for global efforts to combat climate change. The broad availability of more detailed elevation data across most of the African continent through the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) will improve baseline information that is crucial to investigating the impacts of climate change on African communities.

Satellites: Make Earth Observations Open Access

Changes in land cover affect the global climate by absorbing and reflecting solar radiation, and by altering fluxes of heat, water vapor, carbon dioxide, and other trace gases. Detailed assessments-regional, global, daily, and seasonal-of land use and land cover are needed to monitor biodiversity loss and ecosystem dynamics. Satellite imagery is the best source of such data, especially over large areas. In many cases, satellite data are restricted or charged for. Not true for U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) satellite imagery. A new era of open-access satellite data began in 2008 when the USGS released its Landsat archive, the world's largest collection of Earth imagery, to the public free of charge. According to an article by Michael A. Wulder and Nicholas C. Coops in Nature magazine: "Freely available satellite imagery will improve science and environmental-monitoring products."

Landsat and Water: Using Space to Advance Resource Solutions

A recent White House-led assessment found that Landsat is among the Nation's most critical Earth observing systems, second only to GPS and weather. A new USGS study,Landsat and Water - Case Studies of the Uses and Benefits of Landsat Imagery in Water Resources, provides examples of why Landsat is so valuable. Water is managed by many levels of federal, state, local, and tribal governments; by the private sector; through the courts; and through international and interstate treaties and compacts. At all these levels, water users and managers rely more and more on Landsat data about water conditions both at the moment and in the context of four decades of Landsat record.

USGS Role in the National Earth Observing Plan

Fundamental knowledge of the land and its resources is a basic need for effective government and a productive economy in any nation. More than 30 countries now have Earth observing satellites, reflecting a wide range of national priorities around the world for environmental monitoring and economic growth. With minimal restrictions, Earth observation data provided through public funding are made open to the public to advance human knowledge and enable private industry to provide value-added commercial services. The plan includes a list of 145 high-impact Earth observation systems. The top 15 systems form a select top tier and are ranked in order of importance, according to carefully identified priorities. USGS systems make up three of the top 15. First on the prioritized list is the Global Position System (GPS). In second place is the national weather radar network, Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD). The USGS-related programs that follow are Landsat (ranked 3rd), airborne lidar mapping (8th), and the USGS streamgage network (13th).

Visit the Highlights Archive for information highlighted here in the past.

Featured Science

Landsat Data aids in Study: U.S. Eastern Ecosystems Helps Counter Greenhouse Gas Emissions Contributing to Climate Change
Eastern Ecosystems Helps Counter Greenhouse Gas Emissions

USGS scientists used Landsat data to determine that forests, wetlands and farms in the eastern U.S. naturally store 300 million tons of carbon a year, which is nearly 15 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions EPA estimates the country emits each year or an amount that exceeds and offsets yearly U.S. car emissions. In conjunction with the national assessment, USGS released a new web tool, which allows users to see the land and water carbon storage and change in their ecosystems between 2005 and 2050 in the lower 48 states. Biological carbon storage - also known as carbon sequestration - is the process by which carbon dioxide (CO2) is removed from the atmosphere and stored as carbon in vegetation, soils and sediment. The USGS estimates the ability of different ecosystems to store carbon now and in the future, providing vital information for land-use and land-management decisions. Management of carbon stored in our ecosystems and agricultural areas is relevant both for mitigation of climate change and for adaptation to such changes.

Tracking Urban Change and Flood Risk with Landsat
Tracking Urban Change and Flood Risk with Landsat

When it comes to helping communities across the US stay up-to-date on their flood risk, the Landsat satellite can take a bow. Landsat images help track urban change, a factor that can impact a community's flood risk. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, uses these images to help identify where they should launch a new flood study. Flood studies determine how prone different neighborhoods are to floods of a certain intensity or likelihood.


Visit the Featured Science Archive for information highlighted here in the past.


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Page Last Modified: December 04, 2014