Why is there so much color variation among the Landsat browse images?

A custom color stretch is performed on the images, based on individual scene content. Scenes from within the same area and/or acquisition date might vary in band content (due to differences such as cloud content or ground moisture). This differing content will cause variation in the results of the color stretch.  

Pixelation is an artifact of the browse generation process and is common for scenes that are located over flat, low-contrast areas, such as water, sand and snow. The actual data will not appear this way.

Memory Effect (ME) is an artifact that can be observed as alternating lighter and darker scans. At various times, ME has been known as "banding" or "bright target recovery". ME is typically seen in imagery from bands 1-4, over large areas following a significant transition in radiant intensity such as at a cloud/desert or snow/water boundary.

Other banding and striping issues are described on the Landsat Known Issues website.

 

Related Content

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What are Landsat Collection Tiers?

Landsat Collection Tiers are the inventory structure for Level-1 data products and are based on data quality and level of processing. The tier definition purpose is to support easier identification of suitable scenes for time-series pixel-level analysis, and provide temporary data that are processed immediately upon downlink to be dispensed...

What are Landsat Collections?

In 2016, the USGS reorganized the Landsat archive into a tiered collection. This structure ensures that Landsat Level-1 products provide a consistent archive of known data quality to support time-series analyses and data “stacking”, while controlling continuous improvement of the archive and access to all data as they are acquired. Learn more:...

How is the percentage of cloud cover calculated in a Landsat scene?

The C Function of Mask (CFMask) algorithm is used in Landsat Collection 1 Level-1 data processing. This algorithm provides a full-image “Scene Cloud Cover” estimation of the percentage of cloud cover calculated over an entire Landsat scene. Land Cloud Cover, which is also included, is determined by calculating the percentage of clouds over land-...

What is the naming convention for Landsat Collections Level-1 scenes?

The Landsat Collection 1 Level-1 product identifier includes the Collection processing levels, processing date, collection number, and collection iter category: LXSS_LLLL_PPPRRR_YYYYMMDD_yyyymmdd_CC_TX Where: L = Landsat X = Sensor (“C”=OLI/TIRS combined, “O”=OLI-only, “T”=TIRS-only, “E”=ETM+, “T”=“TM, “M”=MSS) SS = Satellite (”07”=Landsat 7, “08...

What are LandsatLook images?

LandsatLook images are full-resolution .jpeg files that are included as options when downloading Landsat data from EarthExplorer , GloVis , or via the LandsatLook Viewer . These are useful for simple visual interpretation without the need for specialized software. LandsatLook products include: LandsatLook "Natural Color" Image (3-band composite)...

What are some known issues that users might find in Landsat data?

A number of artifacts and anomalies can happen to any remote sensing data. Banding, dropped scan lines, and detector failures are only a few of the anomalies that can be seen in Landsat data. Go to Landsat Known Issues for details about anomalies that have been discovered and investigated.
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Date published: March 24, 2017

New “Landsat Collections” Help Facilitate Land Change Science

Access to consistent high-quality images to study changes on Earth’s surface is getting easier. The USGS Landsat standard (Level-1) product inventory is now structured by data quality and offers improved calibration. Data designated as Tier 1 provide the highest accuracy and can be reliably used to analyze changes to Earth’s surface over time.

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April 18, 2018

Landsat in Action - The Accuracy of Landsat with Jeff Masek

Landsat 9 Project Scientist Jeff Masek discusses the ways Landsat data is used and how important it is to have high quality data.
 

December 31, 2017

Landsat Collections

Landsat Collections: Providing a Stable Environmental Record for Time Series Analysis

This video introduces the new U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Landsat Collection 1 inventory structure. Collection 1 required the reprocessing of all archived Landsat data to achieve radiometric and geometric consistency of Level-1 products through time and across all Landsat sensors

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September 19, 2017

Landsat Collections — What are Tiers?

This is the third video in a series describing the new U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Landsat Collection 1 inventory structure. Collection 1 required the reprocessing of all archived Landsat data to achieve radiometric and geometric consistency of Level-1 products through time and across all Landsat sensors. This video explains how Landsat Collection Level-1 data products

...
March 31, 2017

Landsat 8 Swath Animation

The Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center has created a video animation describing how Landsat 8 orbits the Earth. The video explains the 16-day cycle for capturing imagery of the entire world.
 

Image shows a satellite view of wildfire damage in Argentina
January 19, 2017

Landsat 8 View of Argentina Wildfires

This Landsat 8 view of the Pampas region of Argentina, taken on December 22, 2016, shows initial fire scars. Credit: USGS/NASA Landsat Program.

Image shows a satellite view of wildfire damage in Argentina
January 19, 2017

Landsat 8 View of Argentina Wildfires

This followup Landsat 8 view of the Pampas region of Argentina, taken on January 7, 2017, shows significantly increased fire scars. Credit: USGS/NASA Landsat Program.

Example of late-lifetime Late Start Anomaly in L7 ETM+ browse image.

Example of late-lifetime Late Start Anomaly in L7 ETM+ browse image.

Example of a late-lifetime Late Start Anomaly in L7 ETM+ browse image. 

See https://www.usgs.gov/land-resources/nli/landsat/shutter-synchronization-... for more information.