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Top Ten Stories of Landsat's 40 Years

  • About the Images

    Landsat has been capturing change, both worldwide and of the American landscape for 40 years. NASA and U.S. Geological Survey scientists chose the 10 most significant images from this four-decade Landsat data record to highlight the accomplishments and contributions of the world's longest-running Earth-observing satellite program.

  • Landsat image of Mt. St. Helens

    Mount St. Helens: Volcanic Eruption and Recovery

    The 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption was one of the most significant natural disasters in the U.S. in the past half-century. Landsat captured the extent of, and recovery from, the destruction.

  • Landsat image of Beijing in 1978

    Beijing: The Rise of an Economic Superpower

    Images from 1978 to 2011 show the massive growth of Beijing, from 7.89 million to more than 12 million people. Beijing's expansion is representative of the dramatic urbanization and industrialization of Asia during the Landsat era.

  • Landsat image depicting Amazon deforestation in 2008

    International Deforestation Patterns in Tropical Rainforests

    These Landsat images of Amazonian deforestation in Rondônia, a state in Western Brazil, provided conclusive, impartial evidence of the increasing loss of global tropical rain forests.

  • Landsat image of the Aral Sea from 2010

    A Shrinking Aral Sea

    The Aral Sea in Central Asia began disappearing in the 1960s because of the diversion of its two feeder rivers for agriculture.

  • satellite image of smoke billowing from multiple oil well fires in Kuwait in 1991

    Kuwait Oil Fires

    As Iraqi troops withdrew from Kuwait at the end of the first Gulf War, they set fire to over 650 oil wells. Landsat caught the largest oil spill in human history.

  • Landsat image mosaic of the Mexico-Guatemala border region in the late 1980s

    International Borders: Mexico and Guatemala

    In 1988, the first publicized Landsat image of the Mexico-Guatemala border showed clear-cut forest in Mexico and untouched trees in Guatemala. This image had a profound impact on the leaders of the two nations and influenced the establishment in 1990 of Guatemala's Maya Biosphere Reserve and other management and conservation efforts in Central America.

  • Landsat image of Columbia Glacier in 2011

    Columbia Glacier—A Swift Retreat

    The Columbia Glacier in Alaska is one of many vanishing around the world. Glacier retreat is one of the most direct and understandable effects of climate change.

  • image of a forest fire

    A Searing Summer: Yellowstone National Park Fires

    In 1988, fire transformed Yellowstone National Park into an apparent wasteland. Landsat captured the burn scars from the fires and the progress of recovery.

  • Landsat image of Garden City, Ks., in 2011

    Mining for Water in the Kansas Heartland

    The mining of ground water for agriculture has been a significant trend globally over the last half-century, and these images of a region in Kansas highlight the trend within the United States.

  • visualization of Antarctica

    Uncovering Antarctica, Pinpointing Penguins

    In 2007, more than 1,100 Landsat 7 images were used to create the first ever, high-resolution, true color map of Antarctica. The Landsat Image Mosaic of Antarctica is a virtually cloud-free, 3-D view of Antarctica's frozen landscape.