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Landsat Users Confirm Its Unique Value

Landsat Users Confirm Its Unique Value

Since 1972, the Landsat program has allowed scientists and analysts to observe the world beyond the power of human sight, monitor changes to the land, and detect critical trends in the conditions of natural resources. 

To learn more about who uses Landsat imagery and the value these users see in Landsat imagery, the U.S. Geological Survey analyzed responses to a survey of more than 40,000 individuals who accessed free Landsat images from the archive at the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center in Sioux Falls, S.D. Over 11,000 users responded to the survey. 

Recently published in a USGS report, the survey findings demonstrate that a very wide range of customers use Landsat — from educators to Earth scientists, foresters to urban planners, agricultural managers and water users, and many more. These diverse users were surveyed about their specific utilization of Landsat imagery, as well as the impacts of doing without Landsat imagery and its value to each group.

“The value of Landsat’s unique 40-year archive of Earth imagery is incalculable,” said Anne Castle, Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, who welcomed publication of the survey. “But with this study, we can begin to quantify the benefits of Landsat to the national economy and to its many users.”

Respondents used Landsat imagery in 38 different primary applications, ranging from environmental sciences to agriculture to planning, administration of natural resources, and humanitarian aid. Three-quarters of respondents said the imagery is somewhat or very important to their work and stated that they were moderately or very dependent on Landsat imagery to do their jobs. Almost two-thirds of users reported that they would have to discontinue half of their work, on average, if new and archived Landsat imagery were unavailable.

The value of Landsat imagery was quantified through a contingent valuation method that estimates the aggregated annual economic benefits derived from the imagery. Based on the survey results, economists estimated the benefits from Landsat imagery distributed directly by the USGS in 2011 to be just over .79 billion for U.S. users and almost 0 million for international users, resulting in a total annual economic benefit of .19 billion. This estimate does not include benefits from further distribution and reuse of the imagery after it has been obtained from the USGS or from the use of value-added products derived from Landsat imagery. 

Landsat images are unique in that they provide complete global coverage, they span over 41 years of continuous Earth observation, and they are available for free to anyone in the world. No other satellite provides that combination of attributes.  

The USGS report, “Users, Uses, and Value of Landsat Satellite Imagery—Results from the 2012 Survey of Users,” is available online. The survey was the second completed as part of a larger study, which also includes a survey conducted in 2009. The Landsat program is jointly managed by USGS and NASA.

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Parameter Value Description
Magnitude mb The magnitude for the event.
Longitude ° East Decimal degrees longitude. Negative values for western longitudes.
Latitude ° North Decimal degrees latitude. Negative values for southern latitudes.
Depth km Depth of the event in kilometers.
Place Textual description of named geographic region near to the event. This may be a city name, or a Flinn-Engdahl Region name.
Time 1970-01-01 00:00:00 Time when the event occurred. UTC/GMT
Updated 1970-01-01 00:00:00 Time when the event was most recently updated. UTC/GMT
Timezone offset Timezone offset from UTC in minutes at the event epicenter.
Felt The total number of felt reports
CDI The maximum reported intensity for the event.
MMI The maximum estimated instrumental intensity for the event.
Alert Level The alert level from the PAGER earthquake impact scale. Green, Yellow, Orange or Red.
Review Status Indicates whether the event has been reviewed by a human.
Tsunami This flag is set to "1" for large events in oceanic regions and "0" otherwise. The existence or value of this flag does not indicate if a tsunami actually did or will exist.
SIG A number describing how significant the event is. Larger numbers indicate a more significant event.
Network The ID of a data contributor. Identifies the network considered to be the preferred source of information for this event.
Sources A comma-separated list of network contributors.
Number of Stations Used The total number of Number of seismic stations which reported P- and S-arrival times for this earthquake.
Horizontal Distance Horizontal distance from the epicenter to the nearest station (in degrees).
Root Mean Square sec The root-mean-square (RMS) travel time residual, in sec, using all weights.
Azimuthal Gap The largest azimuthal gap between azimuthally adjacent stations (in degrees).
Magnitude Type The method or algorithm used to calculate the preferred magnitude for the event.
Event Type Type of seismic event.
Event ID Id of event.
Event Code An identifying code assigned by, and unique from, the corresponding source for the event.
Event IDS A comma-separated list of event ids that are associated to an event.

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