Science Center Objects

EROS is central to the creation of the National Land Cover Database (NLCD), which is updated every five years and stands as the definitive land cover database for the United States.

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NLCD helps scientists understand Landsat observations by turning them into pixel-by-pixel maps of specific features. 

The left frame of the image pair above shows the Dallas, TX area. The right frame shows NLCD's “Impervious Descriptor” data layer - the first and only nationwide, Landsat-scale map of roadways and oil production facilities in the U.S. The image above depicts on-the-ground conditions during the year 2016, but data are also available for 2011, 2006, and 2001.

Used separately or in combination with NLCD products like the Urban Imperviousness, the dataset can be used to investigate questions on changes to the Nation’s transportation infrastructure and its impact on the wider ecosystem, wildlife habitat, human health, and more.

NLCD is generated in cooperation with the Multi-Resolution Land Characteristics Consortium (MRLC) a partnership of Federal agencies working together to produce current, nationally consistent, land cover products for all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

Click here to learn about NLCD 2019, scheduled for release in mid-2021.

Get data now at MRLC:

NLCD is used for thousands of applications that require information on landcover location or where it is changing.

The latest iteration is NCLD 2016. It contains 28 different land cover products characterizing land cover and land cover change across 7 epochs from 2001-2016, urban imperviousness and urban imperviousness change across 4 epochs from 2001-2016, tree canopy and tree canopy change across 2 epochs from 2011-2016 and western U.S. shrub and grassland areas for 2016. Data are available on the MRLC website, either as prepackaged products or custom product areas can be interactively chosen using the MRLC viewer.

NLCD 2016 offers land cover for years 2001, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2013, 2016, and impervious surface for 2001, 2006, 2011, and 2016. These products update all previously released versions of landcover and impervious products for CONUS (NLCD 2001, NLCD 2006, NLCD 2011) and are not directly comparable to previous products. NLCD 2016 land cover and impervious surface product versions of previous dates must be downloaded for proper comparison.

A new product for NLCD 2016 land cover is the NLCD Land Cover Change Index. This index provides a simple and comprehensive way to visualize change from all 7 dates of land cover in a single layer. The change index was designed to assist NLCD users to understand complex land cover change with a single product.

NLCD 2016 also offers an impervious surface descriptor product (see example of its use to the right). This product identifies types of roads, core urban areas, and energy production sites for each impervious pixel to allow deeper analysis of developed features.