Landsat Missions

Landsat 8 (L8) Data Users Handbook - Section 6

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Section 1 – Introduction

Section 2 – Observatory Overview

Section 3 – Instrument Calibration

Section 4 – Level-1 Products

Section 5 – Conversion of DNs to Physical Units

Section 6 – Data Search and Access

Appendix A – Known Issues

Appendix B – Metadata File (MTL.txt)


Download Landsat 8 (L8) Data User Handbook (.pdf 4.39 MB)

Section 6 - Data Search and Access

The USGS archive holds data collected by the Landsat suite of satellites, beginning with Landsat 1 in 1972. Over 500 L8 scenes are added to the USGS archives each day, and become available to all users for download at no charge using the sites described in this section. All Landsat data products are distributed via Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) access. Current L8 products available include the following:

  • LandsatLook “Natural Color” Image - a full-resolution, 3-band .jpg image (approximate size: 4.5 MB)
  • LandsatLook “Thermal” Image - a full-a resolution, thermal band 10  .jpg image (approximate size: 2.5 MB)
  • LandsatLook “Quality” Image - a full-resolution Quality Assessment band .png image (Approximate size: 2.5 MB)
  • LandsatLook Images with Geographic Reference - a bundle including the “Natural”, “Thermal”, and “Quality” full-resolution images,  along with .wld and .xml files with geographic reference information (Approximate size: 9.0 MB)
  • Level-1 Data Product - a compressed file including all individual multispectral and/or thermal band and metadata files (Approximate size: 950 MB)

The Landsat 8 page at  contains details about L8 data products.

The interfaces outlined in the following subsections allow users to search and download L8 data held in the USGS Archives. The functionality of each differs; however, the data products are all delivered from the same location. Each interface includes a Help section to provide more details about step-by-step processes.

6.1 EarthExplorer (EE)

EE is the primary search interface accessing aerial, mapping, elevation, and satellite data held in the USGS archives, including Landsat data products. Before downloading data products, users must complete the user registration at the EROS Registration System.  Some functions of EarthExplorer will work only after a successful login.

Figure 6-1. EarthExplorer Interface
Figure 6-1. EarthExplorer Interface

The Search Criteria tab options allow users to select the geographic area of interest by typing a place name, latitude / longitude coordinates, path / row, a shape file, or .kml file. The user can also specify the date range and number of results.

The Data Sets tab lists all categories of data held in the USGS Archives. The Landsat Archive section of this tab lists all Landsat data sets from which Level-1 data products can be found:

Figure 6-2. EarthExplorer Landsat Data Sets
Figure 6-2. EarthExplorer Landsat Data Sets

Each data set displays an Information button preceding the name that users can click to view more details about the data set.

After selecting the data set(s), the Additional Search Criteria button is active. The user can click this button to view the Additional Criteria (Optional) tab. This tab allows users to search by specific scene ID or Path / Row, and set cloud cover limits. Users interested in searching nighttime imagery can select that option on this tab as well. After making their selection(s), users click the Results button, located on the bottom right side of the Additional Criteria (Optional) tab.

After a successful search, results are presented in a manner that allows users to view a browse image of the scene, a subset of the metadata file, or the footprint of a scene on the map. To view the available data products, the user clicks the Download Options icon (a green arrow) near each scene. A gold icon indicates scenes can be added to a bulk download order.

Figure 6-3. EarthExplorer Results - Browse Image Display
Figure 6-3. EarthExplorer Results - Browse Image Display

The Show Result Controls section (located above the results listing) allows users to view the footprints or browse of all results, or add them all to a bulk download order (see Figure 6‑4).

Figure 6-4. EarthExplorer Results Controls
Figure 6-4. EarthExplorer Results Controls

6.2 Global Visualization Viewer (GloVis)

The GloVis Viewer is an easy-to-navigate browse-based tool that displays all available Landsat scenes held in the USGS archives.

Figure 6-5. Global Visualization Viewer (GloVis) Interface
Figure 6-5. Global Visualization Viewer (GloVis) Interface

Upon opening, the viewer displays the most recent, least cloudy image of Path 29 Row 30 (southeast South Dakota). To navigate to a specific area, users type Path / Row, Lat / Long decimal coordinates, or move the map using the mouse. Regardless of where the user moves the map, GloVis displays the most recent, least cloudy image. Users can then use the arrows or the Prev Scene / Next Scene buttons on the left side of the screen to ‘page’ through all of the scenes covering the same Path / Row area. The user can also change the cloud cover limits (on the left side of the viewing window).

The GloVis menu options are as follows:

  • The Collection menu lists the searchable data sets, including L8.
  • The Resolution menu allows the user to change the display from 1000 meters (9 scenes in the view) to 250 meters (only the selected scene).
  • The Map layers menu allows the user to add cities, country / admin boundaries, roads, and/or railroads to aid in the search.
  • The Tools menu allows users to set search limits or search for specific scene IDs. Users can also compile and save scene lists from the tool, or upload already created scene lists.

Scenes added to the Scene List are sent to the Cart, which forwards the request to EarthExplorer and prompts users to login. The data can then be downloaded individually, or added to a bulk download order.

6.3 LandsatLook Viewer

Unlike EarthExplorer and GloVis, the LandsatLook Viewer searches only Landsat data held in the USGS archives. The easy-to-use interface allows users to type a place name or move around the globe and zoom into the area of interest.

Figure 6-6. The LandsatLook  Viewer
Figure 6-6. The LandsatLook Viewer

To begin a search, users can type a location in the search box and then click the magnifying glass, or zoom in to the desired geographic location. The user can then select criteria such as years, days of year, cloud cover, and Landsat sensors. The interface displays adjacent scenes more realistically mosaicked, giving a more seamless appearance to the view.

Figure 6-7. Display of Landsat Imagery
Figure 6-7. Display of Landsat Imagery

The user can easily export a file of the screen display. The user can view the Metadata and Data Access section to select and download full-resolution browse files (LandsatLook images) or Level-1 data products. The EarthExplorer login is displayed when the user selects Level-1 data products.

Figure 6-8. LandsatLook Viewer  screen display.
Figure 6-8. LandsatLook Viewer Screen Display

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