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The National Land Cover Database (NLCD) 2016 product suite was recently released for bulk download on the Multi-Resolution Land Characteristics Consortium (MRLC) website. Users of ArcGIS and Google’s Earth Engine, however, will soon have web access to the data directly through their preferred platform.

NLCD 2016 represents the most robust product suite in the USGS-led project’s history, offering Landsat-based land cover and change information that characterizes each 30-meter pixel in the conterminous United States across seven separate years: 2001, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2013, and 2016.

The data from each NLCD release factors into thousands of peer-reviewed studies, on topics including biodiversity patterns, ecosystem performance, urban heat, runoff modeling and more.

Esri, the maker of ArcGIS, began to ingest and process NLCD 2016 data shortly following its public release. The company intends to make the data layers available in scalable raster format as a default capability for all its users.

The company will also fold NLCD 2016 data into its Green Infrastructure project applications, use the data to update the BaseVue global land cover dataset it produces with MDA Information Systems, and to create a series of land cover and change maps and projections.

The new NLCD product suite will improve the quality and accuracy of the ArcGIS-based work done by land managers and urban planners, as well as by research teams around the world, according to Sean Breyer, Program Manager for the ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World.

“NLCD has always been an amazingly useful product for us,” Breyer said. “A lot of our users in U.S. conservation, and a lot of our users in county and state governments use NLCD to help them make decisions and understand land use. Having a more current version lets people make better decisions in land planning.”

Talks with Esri on the release of NLCD 2016 began nearly a year ago, said Collin Homer, the NLCD Program Manager for the USGS. The NLCD team has been in communication with representatives from Google Earth Engine in recent months, as well. That cloud-based Earth data platform also intends to ingest the latest NLCD release in short order, according to Earth Engine Developer Relations lead Nicholas Clinton.

“We will absolutely want to include the latest release as soon as it's available,” Clinton said.

The rapid incorporation of NLCD into popular programs is a sign of a high demand for the products and a boost to users with specific needs, Homer said.

The NLCD mission hinges on making accurate, spatially-consistent 30-meter land cover data available to the public, Homer said. When private companies move that data into popular platforms, they widen the audience and add value to the products.

“Our data delivery is like the bulk aisle of the grocery store. We just offer simple straightforward bulk data packages,” Homer said. “Someone like Esri can provide value added packaging to the data to make it more useable, and just like the grocery store, this is where a lot of the shoppers get the product.”

Learn more about NLCD 2016 here.

Download NLCD 2016 datasets here.



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