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Monitoring urban land cover change by updating the national land cover database impervious surface products

January 1, 2009

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Land Cover Database (NLCD) 2001 is widely used as a baseline for national land cover and impervious conditions. To ensure timely and relevant data, it is important to update this base to a more recent time period. A prototype method was developed to update the land cover and impervious surface by individual Landsat path and row. This method updates NLCD 2001 to a nominal date of 2006 by using both Landsat imagery and data from NLCD 2001 as the baseline. Pairs of Landsat scenes in the same season from both 2001 and 2006 were acquired according to satellite paths and rows and normalized to allow calculation of change vectors between the two dates. Conservative thresholds based on Anderson Level I land cover classes were used to segregate the change vectors and determine areas of change and no-change. Once change areas had been identified, impervious surface was estimated for areas of change by sampling from NLCD 2001 in unchanged areas. Methods were developed and tested across five Landsat path/row study sites that contain a variety of metropolitan areas. Results from the five study areas show that the vast majority of impervious surface changes associated with urban developments were accurately captured and updated. The approach optimizes mapping efficiency and can provide users a flexible method to generate updated impervious surface at national and regional scales.