While Landsat satellites are well-designed and calibrated prior to launch, continuous recalibration is required to offset degradation that may be caused by mechanical or electrical effects, or exposure to UV radiation. Calibration requires a comparison between the measuring instrument and an “absolute” reference standard of known accuracy.
EROS Cal/Val Center of Excellence (ECCOE)
The calibration of Landsat sensors is supported by pre-flight, post-launch onboard, and ground reference data, which is continually researched and updated by the ECCOE, NASA Cal/Val Team, along with funded university partners working in vicarious calibration.
Known Satellite, Sensor, Data Issues
Landsat data are systematic, geometric, radiometric, and terrain corrected to provide the highest quality data to the user communities. Occasionally, anomalies occur, and artifacts are discovered that require research and monitoring. The Landsat Cal/Val team investigates and tracks anomalous data and monitors satellite sensors for changes.
The ECCOE Landsat Cal/Val Team continually monitors the geometric and radiometric performance of active Landsat missions and makes calibration adjustments as needed to maintain data quality at the highest level. Results of the analysis are summarized in USGS Open File Reports that are published quarterly.
Radiometric Characterization and Calibration
Reflectance, radiance, and atmospheric conditions all affect the digital number (DN) values of Landsat data. Radiometric calibration employs algorithms and processes that improve Landsat data. This is done by converting the DN values of the data to spectral radiance (at the sensor), and then to reflectance (also at the sensor). This is followed by the removal of atmospheric effects, which are due to absorption and scattering, to perform atmospheric correction (reflectance at the surface). The Landsat 8 and Landsat 9 Data Users Handbooks also provide more information on radiometric characterization and calibration.
ECCOE Test Sites Catalog
The ECCOE Test Sites Catalog contains prime candidate worldwide test sites for the calibration and post-launch characterization of space-based optical imaging sensors.
The Catalog also includes pseudo invariant calibration sites (PICS), which are considered benchmarks for on-orbit calibration, since they are essentially invariant over time; are spatially very uniform and have stable spectral response over time; the atmospheric effects on upwelling radiance is minimal due to high surface reflectance; and are in regions where rainfall is limited, preventing vegetative growth and very sparse human populations. (Ref: Absolute Calibration of Optical Satellite Sensors Using Libya 4 Pseudo Invariant Calibration Site, Remote Sensing 2014, 6(2), 1327-1346; doi:10.3390/rs6021327.)
Landsat Mission Underfly Opportunities
Throughout the Landsat Program’s long mission history, calibration and characterization of data are of paramount importance. One of the best methods for cross-calibration between instruments is imaging near-coincidentally in tandem using an underfly with an earlier mission sensor. The images to the right show are the result of the Landsat 9 underfly with Landsat 8 over Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on November 11, 2021. The left image shows the Landsat 8 OLI image and the right image is from Landsat 9 OLI. Both images are shown as a true color image using the red, green, and blue bands (Bands 4|3|2).
The underfly activities of Landsat 5 through Landsat 9 are described on the Landsat Mission Underfly Opportunities webpage.
Calibration Parameter Files
Calibration Parameter Files (CPFs) provide radiometric and geometric coefficients needed for processing of raw, uncorrected Landsat image data. Each timeframe-specific CPF contains calibration coefficients that have been adjusted to correct for the time varying performance of the sensor.
The Calibration Parameter File page allows the searching and downloading of CPFs specific to each Landsat sensor, and displays definition documents and notices about changes that affect the files.
Response Linearization Look Up Tables
Response Linearization Look Up Tables (RLUT) are optional additional files that accompany Landsat 8 and Landsat 9 Calibration Parameter Files (CPF) and contain a mapping look up table to linearize the output of the OLI detectors.
Bias Parameter Files
Bias Parameter Files (BPF) are available for Landsat 8 and Landsat 9. BPFs supply radiometric correction parameters during Level-1 processing of Landsat 8 and Landsat 9 data products.
Landsat Geometric Validation
Validating the geometric accuracy of Landsat data incorporates the known processing levels, the root-mean-square error (RMSE) information, and the use of Ground Control Points.
Accurate geometry ensures that Landsat data pixels are aligned, and that the data can be used easily in time series analysis. The exceptional geometry of Landsat 8 OLI/TIRS data is used to improve the reference database used to precisely and accurately geolocate all Landsat Level-1 data products. Landsat Science products inherit the geometry of Landsat Level-1 data.
Ground Control Points (GCPs)
GCPs are points on the surface of the Earth of known location, used to geo-reference Landsat Level-1 imagery. GCPs are updated as needed to continually improve Landsat data. GCPs can be downloaded and used as reference data. Visit the GCP page to learn more.
Levels of Processing
To assure Landsat Level-1 data are suitable for time-series analysis, products need to be co-registered. The root-mean-square error (RMSE) reported in the metadata (MTL.txt) file can be used to filter the precision and terrain corrected Level-1 data products to meet application specific requirements. Landsat processing levels and their accuracies are listed on the Levels of Processing page.
Additional Files and Data Useful in Landsat Calibration/Validation
Solar Illumination and Sensor Viewing Angle Coefficient Files
Absolute radiometric calibration of Landsat using a pseudo invariant calibration site
A procedure for radiometric recalibration of Landsat 5 TM reflective-band data
Radiometric calibration status of Landsat-7 and Landsat-5
Absolute calibration accuracy of L4 TM and L5 TM sensor image pairs
Artifact correction and absolute radiometric calibration techniques employed in the Landsat 7 image assessment system
Absolute calibration of Landsat instruments using the moon.
Absolute radiometric calibration of Landsat using a pseudo invariant calibration sitePseudo invariant calibration sites (PICS) have been used for on-orbit radiometric trending of optical satellite systems for more than 15 years. This approach to vicarious calibration has demonstrated a high degree of reliability and repeatability at the level of 1-3% depending on the site, spectral channel, and imaging geometries. A variety of sensors have used this approach for trending because iAuthorsD. Helder, K. J. Thome, N. Mishra, G. Chander, Xiaoxiong Xiong, A. Angal, Tae-young Choi
A procedure for radiometric recalibration of Landsat 5 TM reflective-band dataFrom the Landsat program's inception in 1972 to the present, the Earth science user community has been benefiting from a historical record of remotely sensed data. The multispectral data from the Landsat 5 (L5) Thematic Mapper (TM) sensor provide the backbone for this extensive archive. Historically, the radiometric calibration procedure for the L5 TM imagery used the detectors' response to the inAuthorsG. Chander, M.O. Haque, E. Micijevic, J. A. Barsi
Radiometric calibration status of Landsat-7 and Landsat-5Launched in April 1999, Landsat-7 ETM+ continues to acquire data globally. The Scan Line Corrector in failure in 2003 has affected ground coverage and the recent switch to Bumper Mode operations in April 2007 has degraded the internal geometric accuracy of the data, but the radiometry has been unaffected. The best of the three on-board calibrators for the reflective bands, the Full Aperture SolarAuthorsJ. A. Barsi, B. L. Markham, D. L. Helder, G. Chander
Absolute calibration accuracy of L4 TM and L5 TM sensor image pairsThe Landsat suite of satellites has collected the longest continuous archive of multispectral data of any land-observing space program. From the Landsat program's inception in 1972 to the present, the Earth science user community has benefited from a historical record of remotely sensed data. However, little attention has been paid to ensuring that the data are calibrated and comparable from missiAuthorsG. Chander, E. Micijevic
Artifact correction and absolute radiometric calibration techniques employed in the Landsat 7 image assessment systemThe Landsat-7 Image Assessment System (IAS), part of the Landsat-7 Ground System, will calibrate and evaluate the radiometric and geometric performance of the Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM +) instrument. The IAS incorporates new instrument radiometric artifact correction and absolute radiometric calibration techniques which overcome some limitations to calibration accuracy inherent in historiAuthorsWayne C. Boncyk, Brian L. Markham, John L. Barker, Dennis Helder
Absolute calibration of Landsat instruments using the moon.A lunar observation by Landsat could provide improved radiometric and geometric calibration of both the Thematic Mapper and the Multispectral Scanner in terms of absolute radiometry, determination of the modulation transfer function, and sensitivity to scattered light. A pitch of the spacecraft would be required. -AuthorsAuthorsH. H. Kieffer, R.L. Wildey