Earth Explorer Imagery Downloads

These directions apply specifically for Landsat and Sentinel-2 satellite imagery, but the same general procedures work for all data from Earth Explorer (specific High resolution imagery directions). 

  Connect to EarthExplorer  
Select area.  The easiest way is to navigate on the map, and then use the option to select the map area.  Making this as small as possible will save having to wade through thousands of images, since images that may only include a small sliver or corner of the map will be included.

You can also select a date range,  or search by month if you only want a seasonal event.

You can pick Maximal clould cover.  In deserts you should easily be able to get very limited cloud cover, but in other areas you might not be able to be so picky.
 

Select the data sets

  • Landsat-- Get Landsat Collection 2 Level-1.   You can still get Landsat Collection 1 Level-1, although it will be retired  soon. Avoid the other options.
  • All four of the Landsat sensors should work, Landsat 1 to 9

Landsat 7 had problems at the end of its mission with voids on the edges of scenes (SLC or scan line converter problem); during much of that time Landsat 5 was still collecting data for the multispectral bands (it did not have the pan band)

Landsat Additional Criteria

  • Get the Landsat path and row
  • Once you know the path and row, set the filter on the additional criteria
  • Set the filter on he additional criteria such as cloud cover.  In the desert you can set the most restrictive area.  In cloudy areas you may have to be less restrictive, but can check if your portion of the entire scene might be cloud free.
  • If you look at the results without looking up the path and row, find a scene with the coverage you want, note its path and row, and return to set the path and row.
After setting all parameters, the Results button will be active and you will get results.  This can take some time if you will be getting a lot of scenes, which will then take you a long time to go through.  It pays to get the smallest area and time period that works, or set additionial criteria to filter the results.
  Each Landsat sensor will return results separately.

Pick the sensor you want from the drop down list. 
 

Results will be displayed.  The most recent will be on the first page, and the oldest on the last page.

If you have a huge number of results, you should consider filtering the results:

  • Get picky with clouds
  • Select only the months you want
  • Insure you have just the correct path and row  or tile for Sentinel-2

Search results.  Until you have some experience, insure that the secnes cover the area you want.  The program often shows a number of different scenes in terms of the coverage area, and they may not overlap.  This is particularly true for the earliest Landsats.

The useful buttons to the right of image thumbnail:

  • Show footprint, to see what a tile shows.
  • Second button from the left overlays the image on the selection map, and should clearly show clouds before you download.
  • Show metadata and browse image
  • Download

If you are just downloading a few files, use it from this page (you can have multiple downloads going at a time; that number might now be 2). 

If you are downloading a lot, you can add to the Cart and then use one of the following options.  This seems to be changing very rapidly

  • MICRODEM download (which may have challenges with the local friendly IT department blocking the operation)
  • uGet.
  • BDA
 

Landsat Download options for a single scene:

  • For detailed analysis, you need the Geotiff data product, and the Product bundle. 
    • For Landsat 8 the scenes are about 1 GB compressed, and about 2 GB when uncompressed. 
    • For Landsat 7 the scenes are about 226 MB compressed.
    • For Landsats 4 and 5 the scenes are about 163 MB compressed.
    • For Landsats 1 to 5 MSS the scenes are about 30 MB compressed.
  • For quick analysis, the Full-Resolution Browse GeoTIFF images are significantly smaller (~14 MB) and are georegistgered, zipped.
    • Insure you have installed GDAL as the images must be processed before use (automatic operation)
    • These should be opened with the file option and not directory selectioni
  • Do not get the Full-Resolution Browse JPEG images (they are dumb pictures).
  • Download the individual band files with great caution
    • Cannot easily get color composite images
    • Open as a DEM/grid
  • Browse images
  • All the downloads have standard Landsat naming conventions
  • Manage Landsat data
 

Sentinel-2 Download options:

  • The L1C tile will be about 3/4 GB, and has all bands in JPEG2000.  GDAL will be needed to read.  You can keep or delete the JPEG2000 files; you must keep them if you want to use ACOLITE.
  • The browse image is much smaller,
  • Use the Uncompress option in MICRODEM to uncompress them all (Windows will bury them down an uncessary level)
  • The files must be processed before use, to convert JPEG2000 files to GeoTIFF
    • Insure you have installed GDAL
    • Open all the images with the folder option
    • Wait for the process to finish

 

Alternative USGS downloads

 


Last revision 3/7/2022