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The global Landsat archive: Status, consolidation, and direction

February 10, 2016

New and previously unimaginable Landsat applications have been fostered by a policy change in 2008 that made analysis-ready Landsat data free and open access. Since 1972, Landsat has been collecting images of the Earth, with the early years of the program constrained by onboard satellite and ground systems, as well as limitations across the range of required computing, networking, and storage capabilities. Rather than robust on-satellite storage for transmission via high bandwidth downlink to a centralized storage and distribution facility as with Landsat-8, a network of receiving stations, one operated by the U.S. government, the other operated by a community of International Cooperators (ICs), were utilized. ICs paid a fee for the right to receive and distribute Landsat data and over time, more Landsat data was held outside the archive of the United State Geological Survey (USGS) than was held inside, much of it unique. Recognizing the critical value of these data, the USGS began a Landsat Global Archive Consolidation (LGAC) initiative in 2010 to bring these data into a single, universally accessible, centralized global archive, housed at the Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The primary LGAC goals are to inventory the data held by ICs, acquire the data, and ingest and apply standard ground station processing to generate an L1T analysis-ready product. As of January 1, 2015 there were 5,532,454 images in the USGS archive. LGAC has contributed approximately 3.2 million of those images, more than doubling the original USGS archive holdings. Moreover, an additional 2.3 million images have been identified to date through the LGAC initiative and are in the process of being added to the archive. The impact of LGAC is significant and, in terms of images in the collection, analogous to that of having had twoadditional Landsat-5 missions. As a result of LGAC, there are regions of the globe that now have markedly improved Landsat data coverage, resulting in an enhanced capacity for mapping, monitoring change, and capturing historic conditions. Although future missions can be planned and implemented, the past cannot be revisited, underscoring the value and enhanced significance of historical Landsat data and the LGAC initiative. The aim of this paper is to report the current status of the global USGS Landsat archive, document the existing and anticipated contributions of LGAC to the archive, and characterize the current acquisitions of Landsat-7 and Landsat-8. Landsat-8 is adding data to the archive at an unprecedented rate as nearly all terrestrial images are now collected. We also offer key lessons learned so far from the LGAC initiative, plus insights regarding other critical elements of the Landsat program looking forward, such as acquisition, continuity, temporal revisit, and the importance of continuing to operationalize the Landsat program.

Publication Year 2016
Title The global Landsat archive: Status, consolidation, and direction
DOI 10.1016/j.rse.2015.11.032
Authors Michael A. Wulder, Joanne C. White, Thomas Loveland, Curtis Woodcock, Alan Belward, Warren B. Cohen, Eugene A. Fosnight, Jerad Shaw, Jeffery G. Masek, David P. Roy
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Remote Sensing of Environment
Index ID 70168326
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center