50 Years of Landsat


We’re celebrating 50 years of the Landsat satellite, the first of which launched on July 23, 1972. The latest in the series, Landsat 9, launched in September 2021.

Landsat shows us Earth from space. For 50 years, the mission has collected data on the forests, farms, urban areas and freshwater of our home planet, generating the longest continuous record of its kind. Decision makers from across the globe use freely available Landsat data to better understand environmental change, manage agricultural practices, allocate scarce water resources, respond to natural disasters and more. 

This natural color image of Eleuthera Island, the Bahamas, was taken by Landsat 9 on January 18, 2022. Between Landsat 8 and Landsat 9, the Landsat program delivers complete coverage of the Earth’s surface every eight days. 

Image Credit: Michelle Bouchard using Landsat data from USGS

Last Updated: Jul 22, 2022

Editor: Yvette Smith

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July 23, 2022 2:09 am

“Decision makers from across the globe mostly ignore freely available Landsat data etc. etc.”

There, fixed it for you.

Super photo, though.

Michael ElliottMichael Elliott
Reply to  Oldseadog
July 23, 2022 3:12 am

With views of the Earth over such a long period it should be unnecessary to use any other data, especially via the Models.

If indeed we have a potential problem in the near future, it would have shown up by now.

As for the dreamers who worry about events occurring after they are dead, well let them dream, but that is all.

Of course we must remember the old saying ” None so blind as those who do not wish to see”.

And of course the very real fear of Communism Mark Two.

Michael VK5ELL

July 23, 2022 3:09 am

“…freely available Landsat data to better understand…”

Hasn’t worked where rewilding is concerned

Ron Long
July 23, 2022 3:19 am

Good stuff then and still good stuff. Why? In mining exploration it is very accurate to utilize “Supervised Classification”, wherein a geologist chooses a pixel that covers what they want to know the location of more of, then processes the pixel (actually a combined 2 or 3 pixels) utilizing something like the “Spectral Mapper Algorithm”, found in the program ENVI, for instance. Why won’t the newer, more advanced technology sensors (narrower bandwidth/more channels and smaller pixels) work better? Because the training site that works best now have mines or drill roads on them and you only find other mines or drill roads. The key to Supervised Classification is to utilize the most recent sensor dataset which does not have disturbance in it. So, Landsat still works great. Happy Birthday.

Paul Stevens
July 23, 2022 5:02 am

Are the images of a high enough resolution to show islands being engulfed by rising sea levels? If yes, then I am sure somebody can use archived tide tables etc. to sort that question out.

Gunga Din
Reply to  Paul Stevens
July 23, 2022 7:22 am

Hmmm … 50 years should be long enough to confirm or refute the CAGW/rising sea levels claims via time lapse photos?

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Paul Stevens
July 23, 2022 9:35 am

Landsat multispectral bands have a nominal resolution of 30 meters per pixel. While there is no guarantee that a pixel will land squarely on top of any island of interest, there are ways of increasing the apparent resolution using panchromatic bands from either Landsat or other satellites. To detect a rising sea level, one needs an island that will be composed of many pixels. There will be an error of estimation of at least +/- 15 meters. So, it would be best to apply the approach to a relatively flat island so that a small vertical increase will result in an exaggerated horizontal shift in the shoreline.

It is not so much the area of an island as it is the elevation that determines the risk from being “engulfed.” However, the problem is confounded by tides, and storm waves shifting sand and reef detritus. However, while Landsat has been used to create time-lapse images of glacier movement, I’m unaware of any similar studies of islands at risk of being submerged. There are, however, other commercial satellites with higher spatial resolution than Landsat.

Clay Marley
July 23, 2022 7:40 am

The satellite era of earth observation began in 1979, so I’m told. By 1979 there had been multiple missions to Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, including a landing on Mars. And of course, multiple trips to the moon and back by non-birthing white supremacists (/sarc). You’d think someone would have thought of actually observing the Earth well before 1979.

There should be good Arctic sea ice data from Nimbus beginning ’64 and Landsat from ’72. What does the data show?

Rich Davis
Reply to  Clay Marley
July 23, 2022 7:51 am

We don’t want to know. “Shut up!”, she explained.

Dave Fair
Reply to  Rich Davis
July 23, 2022 8:06 am

“Shut up!”, she explained.” CliSciFi explained in one sentence.

Reply to  Clay Marley
July 23, 2022 8:29 am

First I have heard of the REALITY that the satellite temperature record ACTUALLY began in 1964. Did the records from 1964 to 1979 show cooling?

If they do, as always, those old sensors were determined to be not dependable, so cherry picking started in 1979.

If not, why is that data not included in the “satellite record”?

Smart Rock
Reply to  Drake
July 23, 2022 9:41 am

No Drake. Satellite monitoring of temperatures by microwave sounding began in 1979,

Landsat spectral imaging began in 1972. Not the same thing.

Interested Observer
Reply to  Clay Marley
July 23, 2022 6:56 pm

People were actually observing the Earth well before 1979. Back then it was called spying and it tended to focus more on military assets than on the environment.

Bill Rocks
July 23, 2022 9:25 am

Good historical note. Thanks. I ordered my first Landsat image in 1974.

Capn' Mike
July 23, 2022 2:49 pm

Nice photo. Too bad it’s NOT ELEUTHRA!!!
It’s obviously Abaco.
Take it from a Bahamian.

July 26, 2022 2:25 pm

I have been using Landsat Analysis Ready data on my urban heat island web site for several years. It is a fantastic data set. It shows many interesting heat sinks in urban areas, not surprisingly, that airports are some of the largest heat sinks. As most people who read this web site know, airports are the locations of many NOAA/NWS weather stations. The details can be found on my web site:

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