The U.S. Geological Survey‘s (USGS) EROS Data Center (EDC) has managed the Landsat data archive for more than two decades. This archive provides a rich collection of information about the Earth‘s land surface. Major changes to the surface of the planet can be detected, measured, and analyzed using Landsat data. The effects of desertification, deforestation, pollution, cataclysmic volcanic activity, and other natural and anthropogenic events can be examined using data acquired from the Landsat series of Earth-observing satellites. The information obtainable from the historical and current Landsat data play a key role in studying surface changes through time.
This document provides an overview of the Landsat program and illustrates the application of the data to monitor changes occurring on the surface of the Earth. To reveal changes that have taken place within the past 20 years, pairs and triplicates of images were constructed from the Landsat multispectral scanner (MSS) and thematic mapper (TM) sensors. Landsat MSS data provide a historical record of the Earth‘s land surface from the early 1970‘s to the early 1990‘s. Landsat TM data provide land surface information from the early 1980‘s to the present.