A Decade of Change in America's Arctic: New Land Cover Data Released for Alaska

The latest edition of the National Land Cover Dataset ( NLCD 2011) for Alaska is now publicly available.

Feb 19, 2015 -- The extensive NLCD database continues to add to our understanding of where land cover change has occurred across the Nation over time.  Derived from carefully calibrated, long-term observations of Landsat satellites, NLCD data are used for thousands of applications such as best practices in land management, indications of climate change, determining ecosystem status and health, and assessing spatial patterns of biodiversity.

“Recognizing that land cover is changing rapidly in the high latitudes of the Arctic, it is vital that we have the clearest view of the spatial and temporal patterns associated with those changes,” said Suzette Kimball, acting Director of the U.S. Geological Survey.  “As the Arctic becomes more accessible to human endeavors, understanding changes in land cover becomes critical in both using and preserving Alaska’s precious resources.” 

For Alaska, this database is designed to provide ten-year cyclical updating of the state's land cover and associated changes. Based on Landsat satellite imagery taken in 2011, the data describe the land cover of each 30-meter cell of land in Alaska and identifies which ones have changed since the year 2001. Nearly six such cells - each 98 feet long and wide - would fit on a football field. 

The updated information tells an objective 10-year land cover change story for Alaska. With a decade of change information available, resource managers, researchers, planners in government and industry —anyone who wishes to investigate the topic — can better understand the trajectory of land cover change patterns and gain insight about land cover change processes.

By far the greatest Alaska change across this decade has been the conversion of forests to shrub and grasslands, primarily as a result of wild land fire. Other land cover categories that have experienced losses from 2001-2011 include perennial ice and snow and wetlands.

NLCD is constructed by the 10-member federal interagency Multi-Resolution Land Characteristics Consortium (MRLC). This on-going 20 year collaboration of MRLC demonstrates an exemplary model of cooperation among government entities that combine resources to efficiently provide digital land cover for the Nation.  Their teamwork in producing the NLCD not only significantly advances land cover science and data, but saves taxpayer money.

Land cover is broadly defined as the biophysical pattern of natural vegetation, agriculture, and urban areas. It is shaped by both natural processes and human influences. NLCD 2011 products provide 20 classes of land cover in Alaska and also define the degree of surface imperviousness in urban areas (usually composed of concrete, asphalt, stone, and metal — widely recognized as a key indicator of environmental quality in urban areas).

The range and spatial accuracy of this information have made it essential to thousands of users,  enabling managers of public and private lands, urban planners, agricultural experts, and scientists with many different interests (for instance, climate, invasive species or hydrogeography) to identify critical characteristics of the land and patterns of land cover change. The data informs many fields of environmental investigation, from monitoring forests to modeling water runoff in urban areas.

NLCD 2011 products were released for the conterminous U.S. last year; products for Hawaii and Puerto Rico will be released later this year. NLCD data can be downloaded free of charge at the MRLC website

Learn more

Multi-Resolution Land Characteristics Consortium (MRLC)

USGS Land Change Science

USGS Land Cover Institute

caption is below
These three panels from the National Land Cover Database depict land cover change in the vicinity of Fairbanks, AK, from 2001 to 2011. The left panel shows the status of the land cover in 2001 (forests in green, shrublands in brown, wetlands in blue and urban in red) The middle panel shows the updated land cover in 2011 and the right panel shows areas where change occurred over this 10 years. This change was caused by a wildfire which converted large areas of forests to shrub and grasslands (shades of light brown in the right panel). Approximately one million acres burn across Alaska each year. ( High resolution image)

Contact Information:
Jon Campbell
Email Contact
( Phone: 703-648-4180 );

Collin Homer
Email Contact
( Phone: 605-594-2714 );

Review Article Be the first to review this article
Autodesk - DelCAM

Featured Video
Jeff RoweJeff's MCAD Blogging
by Jeff Rowe
Hexagon’s Recent Ups & Downs Update
Solidworks Product Designer for NASCENT Technology at Charlotte, NC
Developer-Support-Implementation Engineer for EDA Careers at San Francisco Area, CA
SYSTEMS INTEGRATOR for Palm Beach County Human Resources at West Palm Beach, FL
CAD/CAM Regional Account Manager (Pacific Northwest) for Vero Software Inc. at Seattle, WA
Upcoming Events
AI·GI·CRV Conference 2017 at Edmonton, Alberta Canada - May 16 - 19, 2017
Innorobo 2017 at Docks de Paris Paris France - May 16 - 18, 2017
Display Week 2017 at Los Angeles Convention Center 1201 S Figueroa St Los Angeles CA - May 21 - 26, 2017
LiveWorx Tech Conf 2017 at Boston MA - May 22 - 25, 2017

Internet Business Systems © 2017 Internet Business Systems, Inc.
595 Millich Dr., Suite 216, Campbell, CA 95008
+1 (408)-337-6870 — Contact Us, or visit our other sites:
AECCafe - Architectural Design and Engineering EDACafe - Electronic Design Automation GISCafe - Geographical Information Services TechJobsCafe - Technical Jobs and Resumes ShareCG - Share Computer Graphic (CG) Animation, 3D Art and 3D Models
  Privacy Policy Advertise