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March 17, 2020

The USGS is placing a copy of its consolidated Landsat global data inventory into a commercial cloud in early 2020.

The move to the cloud is designed to reduce the time needed to create new products and to reprocess the Landsat data inventory into a new Collection.

Working under the 2018 Federal Cloud Computing Strategy—or Cloud Smart—the USGS is taking advantage of elastic compute capabilities in the cloud to reprocess data from seven Landsat missions into the next Landsat Collection.

In early 2017, the USGS processed all its Landsat data since 1972 into what was defined as Landsat Collection 1. Managing Landsat data through a Collections framework provides a method to process the data inventory against known standards. In return, this strategy creates provenance and traceability to enable seamless Landsat data analysis through time at pixel scales. The USGS will be using the commercial cloud to produce Landsat Collection 2.

Landsat image of Mendicino Complex Fire, summer 2018
The largest wildfire in California’s history, the Mendocino Complex Fire, was a combination of the Ranch Fire and the River Fire. Together, they burned over 459,000 acres of forested, mountainous land around Clear Lake in summer 2018.  (Public domain.)

“That reprocessing will enhance product quality and accuracy, improve interoperability with Europe’s Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission, and enable the processing and distribution of new global Surface Reflectance and Surface Temperature products,” said USGS Landsat Project Scientist Christopher Crawford.

For taxpayers, placing a copy of the data inventory into the commercial cloud provides convenience and a more cost-effective mechanism to reprocess more than 48 years of Landsat data, as well as cloud-enabled access to new and improved Landsat data products as part of Collection 2.

To complement the commercial cloud services and minimize risk, the USGS will be implementing Landsat’s cloud architecture using a hybrid approach that includes the USGS Cloud Hosting Solutions (CHS) program and existing Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center private cloud capabilities, including network, compute, and storage resources.

The Landsat Project began looking at a cloud solution in late 2016. Along with the move to the cloud, the reprocessing of Landsat Collection 2 is expected to be completed early in 2020 as well. Access to Landsat data in the cloud will be transparent to the user through the USGS Earth Explorer interface (

USGS will actively manage the copy of the consolidated Landsat global data inventory using CHS systems and tools. The provenance and traceability of Landsat data and data products distributed by the USGS through the cloud service provider will remain in control of the USGS. The original Landsat global data inventory will continue to be managed by the USGS at EROS on a long-term basis.

USGS officials have announced that all current users of Landsat data, including redistributors, will continue to have access to Landsat data at no cost.