By: GIS Geography · Last Updated: December 21, 2019
Landsat 8 Bands and Band Combinations
Today, we will list the Landsat 8 bands as well as its most popular band combinations.
The two main sensors for Landsat 8 are the Operational Land Imager (OLI) and Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS).
The Operational Land Imager (OLI) produces 9 spectral bands (Band 1 to 9) at 15, 30 and 60 meter resolution.
Then, the Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS) consists of 2 thermal bands with a spatial resolution of 100 meters.
What Are the Landsat 8 Bands?
Operational Land Imager (OLI)
This is the same information as in the table above but broken down by each sensor. On-board Landsat-8, OLI generates 9 spectral bands (Band 1 to 9). Landsat 8 bands from the OLI sensor are coastal, blue, green, red, NIR, SWIR-1, SWIR-2 and cirrus. These 8 bands have a ground resolution of 30 meters. Then, the panchromatic band has a finer resolution of 15 meters.
Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS)
TIRS is first of its kind in the Landsat program. In other words, this type of sensor did not exist before Landsat 8. TIRS consists of 2 thermal bands (band 10 & 11) measures Earth’s thermal energy. Both bands from TIRS are long wavelength infrared with 100 meter resolution.
Landsat 8 Band Combinations
As with any image bands, you can arrange them in such a way to extract unique and new information. This is definitely the case by extracting spectral signatures of objects in an image.
In the case of Landsat-8, some of the popular band combinations include natural color, color infrared and various vegetation indexes.
If you want to view the Landsat-8 band combinations in an interactive webmap, then I suggest to you the Landsat Explorer. All you have to do is just switch the rendering of data.
Otherwise, read below for the most common band combinations and what they specialize in.
Natural Color (4, 3, 2)
The natural color composite uses a band combination of red (4), green (3) and blue (2). It replicates close to what our human eye see. While healthy vegetation is green, unhealthy flora is brown. Urban features appear white and grey and water is dark blue or black.
Color Infrared (5, 4, 3)
This band combination is also called the near infrared (NIR) composite. It uses near-infrared (5), red (4) and green (3). Because chlorophyll reflects near infrared light, this band composition is useful for analyzing vegetation. In particular, areas in red have better vegetation health. Dark areas are water and urban areas are white.
Short-Wave Infrared (7, 6 4)
The short-wave infrared band combination uses SWIR-2 (7), SWIR-1 (6) and red (4). This composite displays vegetation in shades of green. While darker shades of green indicate denser vegetation, sparse vegetation have lighter shades. Urban areas are blue and soils have various shades of brown.
Agriculture (6, 5, 2)
This band combination uses SWIR-1 (6), near-infrared (5) and blue (2). It’s commonly used for crop monitoring because of the use of short-wave and near infrared. Healthy vegetation appears dark green. But bare earth has a magenta hue.
Geology (7, 6, 2)
The geology band combination uses SWIR-2 (7), SWIR-1 (6) and blue (2). This band combination is particularly useful for identifying geological formations, lithology features and faults.
Bathymetric (4, 3, 1)
The bathymetric band combination (4,3,1) uses the red (4), green (3) and coastal band to peak into water. The coastal band is useful in coastal, bathymetric and aerosol studies because it reflects blues and violets. This band combination is good for estimating suspended sediment in water.
The panchromatic band spans are longer range of wavelengths and can generate 15m panchromatic images. By pansharpening imagery with the panchromatic band, you can sharpen your imagery producing a crisper product.
The vegetation index leverages the properties of the red (which vegetation absorbs) and near infrared bands (which vegetation strongly reflects). As the name implies, we use it to monitor vegetation health and vigor. Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) always ranges from -1 to +1. Negative values are indicative of water and moisture. But high NDVI values suggests dense vegetation canopy.
The moisture index estimates the amount of moisture content. Water appears as blue with lighter shades containing less moisture. Finally, bright orange and red have significantly lower moisture content.
Other Important Information
Landsat-8 was launched on February 11, 2013 and is still active. It started as the Landsat Data Continuity Mission. Now, we know it simply as Landsat-8.
Landsat-8 collects 550 scenes per day. So by August 2020, it will reach a total of 1.5 million collected scenes. This workhorse satellite remains a staple of open source land information for the public.
If you’re interested in learning more, NASA has a great blog post on how to interpret a satellite image.
And of course, the entire Landsat Science website is an excellent resource for keeping up-to-date with everything such as Landsat-9.