Landsat satellite data have been produced, archived, and distributed by the USGS since 1972. Data users in many different fields depend on this basic Earth observation information for broad investigations of historical land surface change that cross large regions of the globe and span many years. Accordingly, this community of users requires consistently calibrated radiometric data that are processed to the highest standards.
In response to a recognized need, the USGS has begun production of higher level (i.e., more highly processed) Landsat data products to help advance land surface change studies. One such product is Landsat surface reflectance data.
Surface reflectance data products approximate what a sensor held just above the Earth’s surface would measure under ideal observing conditions: without any intervening artifacts (i.e., interference or changing conditions) caused by the Earth’s atmosphere, different levels of solar illumination, or the changing geometry of the view from the Landsat satellite hundreds of miles above the Earth. The precise removal of these artifacts increases the consistency and comparability between images of the Earth’s surface taken at different times of the day and year.
Surface reflectance and other high level data products can be requested through the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center by accessing the EROS Science Processing Architecture (ESPA) interface. Surface reflectance data are also available using the USGS EarthExplorer; select “Landsat CDR” under the tab for “Datasets”.
More information on Landsat surface reflectance data is available at the USGS Landsat website.
These subsets of a Landsat scene of Mount Vesuvius near Naples, Italy: (A) natural color composite; (B) top-of-atmosphere reflectance product; and (C) surface reflectance product. Source: Landsat 8 Operational land Imager (OLI) Path 189, Row 32, acquired May 29, 2013.