Plenty of significant occasions and accomplishments were celebrated by the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center in 2022.
2022 Year in Review for USGS EROS
Landsat 9's handover, Landsat's 50th anniversary and new products added excitement to the year
After its successful launch in September 2021, Landsat 9 continued meeting and exceeding expectations, and its data first became available from the USGS EROS archive on February 10, 2022. The satellite adds up to 750 scenes to the archive each day.
The ceremony marking the handover of ownership and operation of Landsat 9 from NASA to the USGS drew a crowd to a large tent on the EROS lawn August 11, 2022, that included USGS employees and contractors, Landsat Science Team members and local media, among others. The speakers included NASA representatives; Tanya Trujillo, Assistant Secretary for Water and Science for the Department of the Interior; David Applegate, Director of the USGS; and Pete Doucette, Acting Director of EROS.
Landsat 7 didn’t fade into the sunset when Landsat 9 took its place in orbit opposite Landsat 8. Rather, the satellite that launched in 1999 resumed collecting data May 5, 2022, in a slightly lower orbit for an extended science mission that will continue into 2023. USGS Research Physical Scientist, Landsat Project Scientist, Co-chair of the Landsat Science Team and Landsat Science Data Acquisition Manager Chris Crawford, based at EROS, explained more about the extended mission in Eyes on Earth podcast Episode 85.
The Landsat Program also celebrated the 50th anniversary of the July 23, 1972, launch of Landsat 1—then called the Earth Resources Technology Satellite (ERTS). Many articles and publications marked the occasion, including Remote Sensing of Environment with “Fifty years of Landsat science and impacts,” prepared by past and present Landsat Science Team members including Chris Crawford and Tom Loveland from EROS. The 2022 JACIE Remote Sensing Satellite Compendium produced at EROS also looked back on 50 years of Landsat and the resulting revolution in remote sensing. EROS created a 20-minute video, “Landsat: Celebrating 50 Years.” Also just in time for the anniversary, EROS finished publishing 50 fact sheets highlighting several of Landsat’s benefits for each state.
Sadly, the remote sensing community lost one of Landsat’s biggest scientist advocates on May 13, 2022, when Tom Loveland passed away, and USGS EROS colleagues mourned their longtime mentor and friend.
It would be difficult to list all the research and accomplishments by EROS scientists in 2022, but here are several key products and tools that were released.
- LANDFIRE: This was a big year for the LANDFIRE (Landscape Fire and Resource Management Planning Tools) team at EROS. LANDFIRE is a key national data source for the management of wildfires, management of the plant materials that fuel fires, and planning for prescribed fires. The latest version of the product suite, called the LANDFIRE 2020 Update, was released in phases in 2022 for the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands with data from 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020, along with expected 2022 fuel conditions. A newly updated interactive viewer was released earlier in the year to make accessing the data layers simpler. In addition, in May, a nonprofit group received publicity for releasing a Risk Factor tool for wildfires that’s based on LANDFIRE mapping layers.
- LCMAP: LCMAP (Land Change Monitoring, Assessment, and Projection) kicked off 2022 by releasing its first set of land cover and land surface change science products for Hawaii in January, for the years 2000 through 2020. It was the first LCMAP release outside the conterminous United States (CONUS). In August, LCMAP released Collection 1.3, its third update to CONUS products, with the addition of 2021 data in the collection that stretches back to 1985.
- Landsat: Landsat Collection 2 global science products released in August include Provisional Aquatic Reflectance with Landsat 8 and Landsat 9 data and Provisional Actual Evapotranspiration with data from Landsats 4 through 9. Meanwhile, Collection 1 will be removed on December 30, 2022.
Awards and Honors
Several achievements with EROS ties were recognized during 2022, including these:
- The combined Landsat Cal/Val Team, which includes staff from EROS, received NASA’s Robert H. Goddard Award—Science for Landsat 9 calibration and validation efforts in July.
- A conference booth backdrop created by Communications & Outreach at EROS earned a USGS Shoemaker Award for Communications Product Excellence in March. The backdrop displayed Landsat, aerial and scenic imagery showing the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Denver.
- The Landsat 5 Flight Operations Team received the 2020 Pecora Group Award in October for its engineering and problem-solving skills to keep the satellite collecting data for nearly 29 years and ensuring the continuity of the Landsat archive.
Enlightening the Public
USGS EROS reinstated tours by appointment in 2022 and welcomed visitors for conferences and a fall poster session.
EROS Communications and Outreach worked with National Land Imaging Program staff to plan the 22nd William T. Pecora Memorial Remote Sensing Symposium in Denver in October, assisting with coordination, leadership, technical session presentation selections and creative design. EROS leadership was evident at the Symposium, with more than 30 participants, most of whom led technical sessions and participated on panels throughout the event. At 503 overall participants, event attendance was in the Top Ten of Pecora Symposiums since its origination in 1972.
In addition, new Eyes on Earth podcast episodes, Image of the Week videos, Earthshots pages and EROS social media posts published throughout the year helped inform the public about new developments with remote sensing and provided visualizations to help them understand more about the world around them, including change over time. Examples include a podcast episode about mapping 30 years of U.S. land change, a video about catfish ponds in Mississippi, and Earthshots imagery showing dramatic changes in the Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica.
EROS anticipates an exciting 2023, which will mark the 50th year in its rural location near Sioux Falls, South Dakota.