The rolling plains of Nebraska occupy a storied place in the American psyche. For those living outside the Midwest, the Cornhusker State may be seen as a symbol of the Nation’s heartland, cropped border to border, with country churches and barely standing barns to be found around every turn of its gravel roads.
Although the pioneer history and agricultural heritage of the 37th State lend credence to this idyllic view, Nebraska’s varied landscapes and modern economy make the reality of life in the State more complex than its rural image would suggest.
Agriculture remains Nebraska’s top industry, but manufacturing now represents 12 percent of the State’s gross domestic product. The financial services and insurance industries account for 8 percent of the gross domestic product in Nebraska, which is the headquarters of Berkshire Hathaway and Mutual of Omaha, the latter of which is named after Nebraska’s largest city, which grew nearly 12 percent between 2010 and 2020. Cropland is indeed a prominent feature in Nebraska, but the State also is home to 8 State parks, 5 national parks, 2 national forests, and 3 national grasslands. The grasses and dunes of the Nebraska Sand Hills that stretch across the north-central quarter of the State are a National Natural Landmark.
Data from the Landsat satellite program contribute to the study and management of Nebraska’s land in myriad ways, from monitoring crop productivity and aiding in rangeland management to tracking damage from floods, droughts, or hurricanes. Land cover maps produced using data pulled from the 50-year Landsat archive can offer important insights into urban growth, land use trends, and land change patterns. Here are a few examples of how Landsat has been used in Nebraska.