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Landsat Surface Reflectance Level-2 science products support land surface change studies.

Landsat 4-5 Thematic Mapper (TM) and Landsat 7 Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+)

For Landsat 4-5 Thematic Mapper (TM) or Landsat 7 Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) data, Surface Reflectance data are generated from the Landsat Ecosystem Disturbance Adaptive Processing System (LEDAPS), a specialized software originally developed through a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Making Earth System Data Records for Use in Research Environments (MEaSUREs) grant by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) and the University of Maryland (Masek et al., 2006).

The software applies Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) atmospheric correction routines to Level-1 data products. Water vapor, ozone, geopotential height, aerosol optical thickness, and digital elevation are input with Landsat data to the Second Simulation of a Satellite Signal in the Solar Spectrum (6S) radiative transfer models to generate top of atmosphere (TOA) reflectance, surface reflectance, TOA brightness temperature, and masks for clouds, cloud shadows, adjacent clouds, land, and water.

Specific details about the LEDAPS algorithm and Landsat 4-5 and 7 Surface Reflectance data products can be found in the Landsat 4-7 Surface Reflectance Product Guide.

Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager (OLI)

Landsat 8 Surface Reflectance data are generated from the Landsat Surface Reflectance Code (LaSRC), which makes use of the coastal aerosol band to perform aerosol inversion tests, uses auxiliary climate data from MODIS and uses a unique radiative transfer model. LaSRC hardcodes the view zenith angle to “0”, and the solar zenith and view zenith angles are used for calculations as part of the atmospheric correction.

Specific details about the LaSRC algorithm and Landsat 8 Surface Reflectance data products can be found in the Landsat 8 Surface Reflectance Product Guide.

Differences between Landsat 4–7 and Landsat 8 Surface Reflectance algorithms

6S Second Simulation of a Satellite Signal in the Solar Spectrum, AOT Aerosol Optical Thickness, CFmask C Version of Function Of Mask, CMA Climate Modeling Grid - Aerosol, CMG Climate Modeling Grid, DDV Dark Dense Vegetation, DEM Digital Elevation Model, ETM+ Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus, GSFC Goddard Space Flight Center, INT Integer, MEaSUREs Making Earth Science Data Records for Use in Research Environments, MODIS Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, N/A Not Applicable, NASA National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NCEP National Centers for Environmental Prediction, OLI Operational Land Imager, OMI Ozone Monitoring Instrument, QA Quality Assurance, SR Surface Reflectance, TIRS Thermal Infrared Sensor, TM Thematic Mapper, TOA Top of Atmosphere Reflectance, TOMS Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer, XML Extensible Markup Language


Landsat 4–5, 7 (LEDAPS)

Landsat 8 (LaSRC)

(Original) research grant


NASA GSFC (Vermote)

Global coverage



TOA Reflectance

Visible (Bands 1–5,7)

Visible (Bands 1–7, 9 OLI)

TOA Brightness Temperature Thermal (Band 6) Thermal (Bands 10 & 11 TIRS)


Visible (Bands 1–5,7)  

Visible (Bands 1–7) (OLI only)

Thermal bands used in 
Surface Reflectance processing? 
Yes (Brightness temperature Band 6 is used in cloud estimation) No

Radiative transfer model


Internal algorithm

Thermal correction level

TOA only

TOA only

Thermal band units





Surface pressure is calculated internally based on the elevation

Water vapor



Air temperature




Global Climate Model DEM

Global Climate Model DEM



MODIS CMG Coarse resolution ozone


Correlation between chlorophyll absorption and bound water absorption of scene


Sun angle

Scene center from input metadata

Scene center from input metadata

View zenith angle

From input metadata

Hard-coded to 0

Undesirable zenith angle correction

SR not processed when solar zenith angle > 76 degrees

SR not processed when solar zenith angle > 76 degrees

Pan band processed?



XML metadata?



Top of Atmosphere
Brightness Temperature calculated

Yes (Band 6 TM/ETM+)

Yes (Band 10 & 11 TIRS)

Cloud mask



Data format



Fill values



QA bands

Adjacent cloud
Cloud shadow
Land water
Atmospheric opacity

Adjacent cloud
Cloud shadow
Aerosol Interpolation

Caveats and Constraints

Most Landsat 4-8 scenes in the USGS archive can be processed to Surface Reflectance. Newly-collected Landsat 8 and Landsat 7 Real-Time scenes become suitable for processing within a few days of data acquisition. Please note the following caveats:

1. Due to missing auxiliary input data and/or necessary thermal data, Surface Reflectance processing cannot be applied to data acquired during the dates listed below.

Landsat 8

2016:  February 19 to February 27 (DOY 50 to 58) **

Landsat 7

2016: May 30 to June 12 (DOY 151 to 164) **
2017: March 12 to March 17 (DOY 71 to 76) **

** Auxiliary data needed to produce Surface Reflectance data is unavailable

2. The efficacy of land surface reflectance correction is likely to be reduced in hyper-arid or snow-covered regions, areas with low sun angle conditions, coastal regions where land area is small, relative to adjacent water, or areas with extensive cloud contamination.

Corrections may not be accurate to data acquired over high latitudes (> 65 degrees North or South). Landsat 7 ETM+ inputs are not gap-filled in the surface reflectance production. Users can refer to the quality assurance (QA) layers for pixel-level condition and validity flags.

3. Landsat atmospheric correction and surface reflectance retrieval algorithms are not ideal for water bodies due to the inherently low level of water leaving radiance, and the consequential very low signal to noise ratio. Similarly, surface reflectance values greater than 1.0 can be encountered over bright targets such as snow and playas. These are known computational artifacts in the Landsat surface reflectance products.  

Quantitative remote sensing retrievals of water column constituents requires different algorithms, which are being considered for integration into future Landsat surface reflectance products.

Data Access

Surface Reflectance data are available as tile-based or scene-based products: 

Surface Reflectance tile-based data are avaiable for immediate download within the U.S. Landsat Analysis Ready Data (ARD) bundles, which are available from EarthExplorer

Surface Reflectance scene-based data can be ordered through the following pages:

USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center Science Processing Architecture (ESPA) On Demand Interface

To begin the order, upload a text file (*.txt) listing one Landsat Level-1 product or MODIS granule identifier on each line. Scene identifiers can be found in the search results on EarthExplorer or GloVis.

After uploading the scene list text file, a number of options can be selected, including:

  • Source products (Original input Level-1 product or metadata)
  • Top of atmosphere reflectance, surface reflectance (SR), or band 6 top of atmosphere brightness temperature products
  • Surface reflectance-based spectral indices (NDVI, NDMI, NBR, SAVI, EVI)
  • Customizable output options: data format, reprojection, modifying the image extents, and pixel resizing
  • Intercomparison and output product statistics plotting

All orders submitted through ESPA are processed within 2-5 days, depending on the size of the order and the backlog already in the system. Email notifications are sent after the order is placed, and also after the data is processed and ready to download. *Note: Data requested through ESPA are not accessible using the EarthExplorer interface or Bulk Download Application (BDA).


Surface Reflectance (SR) data for individual scenes can be selected using EarthExplorer. These requests will be sent to the ESPA On-Demand interface for processing and data delivery.

Surface Reflectance scene-based bulk download: ESPA Bulk Download Client  (utilizes Python scripts for data downloads)

Data Tools

Data manipulation tools that function with Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Land products are likely to work with Landsat surface reflectance data products as well. The public domain tools listed below are suggested for format conversion, science data set extraction, bit extraction (for top of atmosphere reflectance, saturation values only), and reprojection.

Software Access
Modis Reprojection Tool (MRT)
Landsat Quality Assessment (QA) Tools
HDF-EOS To GeoTIFF Conversion Tool (HEG)


Landsat Surface Reflectance Documents


Landsat 4-5 TM and Landsat 7 ETM+

Product Guide: Landsat 4-7 Surface Reflectance Product, on-demand version
Product Page: Landsat 4-7 Surface Reflectance Product, EarthExplorer access
Release Notes: Landsat Ecosystem Disturbance Adaptive Processing System (LEDAPS)
LEDAPS Algorithm Description Document White Paper

Landsat 8

Product Guide: Landsat 8 Surface Reflectance Product, on-demand version
Product Page: Landsat 8 Surface Reflectance Product, EarthExplorer access 
Release Notes: Landsat 8 Surface Reflectance Code (LaSRC) Processing

ESPA On Demand Interface

User Guide: Earth Resources Observations and Science (EROS) Center Science Processing Architecture (ESPA) on Demand Interface