Frequently Asked Questions

Mapping, Remote Sensing, and Geospatial Data

The USGS provides the mapping and digital geospatial foundation for the Nation.

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National Map structure tint
The National Map’s Structures Tint dataset represents manmade structures using broad-area tints rather than defining the exact shape of individual buildings.   The data was provided by Oak Ridge National Labs and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This dataset was introduced in 2021 and is designed for use at the 1:24,000 scale (the standard...
Scan of the 1909 USGS quadrangle of the Yosemite, California area, to include El Capitan, from the USGS Historic Topographic Map
The USGS will gladly accept donations of digital, scanned copies of historical topographic maps (published 1884-2006) that are not in our current Historical Topographic Map Collection (HTMC). We do not accept donations of paper maps. Donated products must be published USGS topographic maps, 1:250,000 scale or larger, with basic required metadata...
Landsat 8 Surface Reflectance example
A scale factor must be applied to both Collection 1 and Collection 2 Landsat Level-2 surface reflectance and surface temperature products before using the data. Please note: Landsat Collection 1 and Collection 2 level-2 science products have different scaling factors, fill values, and are different data types (see table). Users can apply a scale...
LiDAR point cloud from the Yellowscan VX20 scanner of the Downing Reservoir on the Denver Federal Center
USGS elevation data available through The National Map was converted to Cloud Optimized Geotiff (COG - GeoTIFF) format in mid-December, 2019. This change was made to improve product processing time, storage, and to support new and evolving cloud processing capabilities.  GeoTIFF is a widely supported raster format and is directly useable by most...
Cloud Hosting Solutions
Landsat data continue to be freely available through traditional USGS tools such as EarthExplorer, but if you prefer to access the data in the cloud, an Amazon Web Services (AWS) account is required.  Landsat data are available in the cloud via the AWS Oregon us-west-2 region. There is no charge for the Landsat data, but charges from the cloud...
Landsat 8 image of Maui before fire
Yes. Regardless of how it is accessed, Landsat data are controlled by the USGS and considered to be an official USGS record in the public domain. Permission is not required for use. We do request that you acknowledge the USGS as the source.  Learn More:   USGS Copyrights and Credits statement  Landsat Commercial Cloud Data Access 
Example of the Landsat 8 Aquatic Reflectance Science Product
Some Landsat products include Quality Assessment (QA) bands with unsigned integers that represent bit-packed information for each pixel. Details for individual products are at:  Landsat Level-1 (Collection 1 and Collection2)  Landsat Level-2 Surface Reflectance    Landsat Level-2 Provisional Aquatic Reflectance   These files must be unpacked to a...
Front page of USGS topographic maps symbol sheet
Like topographic maps, topographic map symbols have evolved over time. There is no single document that describes all the symbols used on all USGS topographic maps since they were first created.   Maps published 2013-present: US Topo maps (PDF format only) have a topographic symbol sheet attached to the map file. Open the PDF file in Adobe Acrobat...
Image of 1:50,000 scale NGA Christmas, AZ topo map
The USGS has a limited number of 1:50,000-scale maps available for the United States. These are maps that the National Geospatial Agency (NGA) has released for sale to the public.   To see which maps are available for sale (or free digital download), go to the online USGS Store:  Click on “Maps” in the left navigation menu. Look for the NGA...
Example of Landsat Collection 2 Surface Reflectance
Landsat Collection 2 marks the second major reprocessing event of the USGS Landsat archive. Continuing the tiered collection management structure implemented in Landsat Collection 1, Landsat Collection 2 introduces several advancements in data processing, algorithm development, as well as data access and distribution capabilities, including:  ...
Landsat Collection 2 Sample Data Example
The naming convention for Landsat Collection 2 Level-1 products remains the same as in Collection 1.   While most of Landsat Collection 2 scenes are produced to both Surface Reflectance (SR) and Surface Temperature (ST), a small number of scenes cannot be processed to ST due to missing auxiliary data. The naming convention of Landsat Collection 2...
Example of the Landsat Burned Area Science Product
Landsat Collection 1 products will remain available for search and download through December 31, 2022. Landsat Collection 1 processing of Level-1, Level-2 Surface Reflectance and Surface Temperature; U.S. Landsat ARD; and Level-3 Burned Area, Dynamic Surface Water Extent, and Fractional Snow Cover Area products will continue through December 31,...