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The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center is pleased to announce the December release of Landsat Collection 2, the most significant upgrade to the Landsat archive to date.

Landsat 7 image showing the area near Ciudad Obregón, Mexico
Example of the Landsat 7 ETM+ Collection 2 level-1 product. This Landsat 7 image was acquired on January 1, 2003 near Ciudad Obregón, Mexico and is shown as a natural color composite using the red, green, and blue bands (bands 3,2,1).

“We have heard the voice of our science customers, who love the quality of our products but not, in the past, the latency of collection processing,” EROS Center Director Christopher “C.J.” Loria said. “We accomplished in less than two months what would have taken roughly two years had we processed it on-premises.”

Director Loria said the movement to cloud processing and cloud data access reflects a significant paradigm shift for the USGS and DOI with regard to how Landsat data products will be accessed and used for science research and applications.

Collection 2 offers cloud access to Landsat’s nearly 50-year record of Earth surface conditions, alongside a host of improvements to data quality and easier access to Level-2 data products.

This achievement by the Department of the Interior (DOI), USGS, and EROS was undertaken for the benefit of the Landsat user community, with the goal of offering better accuracy and interoperability with other satellite data sources, as well as optimizing the archive’s compatibility with cloud-based storage and processing capabilities.

Collection 2 was processed in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud environment through a USGS Cloud Hosting Services (CHS) architecture at a clip of 450,000 scenes per day—a speed that enabled the reprocessing of the entire archive in just five weeks. By comparison, it took 18 months to process Collection 1 in 2016, at a rate of 25,000 scenes each day.

“This is the first time that Landsat Collection-based data products will be offered in a cloud-friendly format and users will be able to bring their algorithms, analysis, research, and applications to the cloud without having to download a single Landsat image,” said Dr. Christopher Crawford, Landsat Science Team Co-Chair and Landsat Project Scientist for the USGS.

Collection 2 also opens the door for use of the Landsat archive within the USGS data lake, which will allow USGS scientists to leverage the Survey’s vast and disparate data sources to monitor, assess, and project change across the Nation and the world. 

Lessons learned in Collection 2 processing will serve to speed the processing of Collection 3 in the future. Chris Engebretson, the Data Processing Systems Manager for Landsat at EROS, sees the cloud as an increasingly important piece of the puzzle as EROS teams work to improve their products to meet user demands.

Example of the Landsat 8 OLI/TIRS Collection 2 level-2 science products
Example of the Landsat 8 OLI/TIRS Collection 2 level-2 science products. Left: Landsat 8 level-2 surface reflectance image. Right: Landsat 8 level-2 surface temperature image. The data was acquired on May 3, 2013 (path 140 row 41).

This milestone achievement of Collection 2 couldn’t have arrived without the diverse, inclusive, and technically capable team at the EROS Center, located near Sioux Falls, SD. A full list of contributors is too long to showcase here. Several USGS employees and support staff at EROS and beyond exhibited exceptional and conscientious efforts in the Landsat Collection 2 cloud migration project:

  • EROS project managers Steve Zahn, Kristi Kline, and Steve Labahn provided strategic visioning and leadership end to end.
  • Subject matter experts including Engebretson, Crawford, and Ryan Longhenry, Tom Sohre, and Kline contributed greatly to the technical implementation and product architectures.
  • The USGS/NASA Landsat Science Team, USGS CHS’s Harold House and Al Pedraza, and the USGS National Land Imaging Program’s Steve Covington helped to guide and support the success of Collection 2 reprocessing.
  • The EROS Information Technology Security team, led by Phil Egeberg and Zach Fuerst, which insured the safety of the Collection 2 project.
  • The EROS Technical Services Support Contract (TSSC) team, headed up by Jessica Anderson and Kevin Costinett, which helped fulfill the needs of its customers and the user community throughout the process.

As a result of those efforts, the release of Collection 2 on December 1, 2020 will mark a new era for users of Landsat data. Collection 2 also features improved geodetic and geometric accuracy across the archive using the European Space Agency (ESA) Ground Reference Image, which will bolster efforts to harmonize Landsat data and data collected by Europe’s Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellites. The Landsat Level-2 products—surface temperature and surface reflectance—from 1984 through the present are also available without special requests, offering instant access to Landsat geophysical science products that will power energy balance or urban heat island studies as application examples.

Follow this link to learn more about Collection 2 through the Landsat Missions website.

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