US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Remote Sensing of Environment 113 (2009) 1133–1147; doi:10.1016/j.rse.2009.02.004


The recent release of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Land Cover Database (NLCD) 2001, which represents the nation's land cover status based on a nominal date of 2001, is widely used as a baseline for national land cover conditions. To enable the updating of this land cover information in a consistent and continuous manner, a prototype method was developed to update land cover by an individual Landsat path and row. This method updates NLCD 2001 to a nominal date of 2006 by using both Landsat imagery and data from NLCD 2001 as the baseline. Pairs of Landsat scenes in the same season in 2001 and 2006 were acquired according to satellite paths and rows and normalized to allow calculation of change vectors between the two dates. Conservative thresholds based on Anderson Level I land cover classes were used to segregate the change vectors and determine areas of change and no-change. Once change areas had been identified, land cover classifications at the full NLCD resolution for 2006 areas of change were completed by sampling from NLCD 2001 in unchanged areas. Methods were developed and tested across five Landsat path/row study sites that contain several metropolitan areas including Seattle, Washington; San Diego, California; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Jackson, Mississippi; and Manchester, New Hampshire. Results from the five study areas show that the vast majority of land cover change was captured and updated with overall land cover classification accuracies of 78.32%, 87.5%, 88.57%, 78.36%, and 83.33% for these areas. The method optimizes mapping efficiency and has the potential to provide users a flexible method to generate updated land cover at national and regional scales by using NLCD 2001 as the baseline.