Remotely-Sensed Data in ArcGIS Online

ESRI makes remotely-sensed data from a variety of sources directly available through ArcGIS Online. While this data is published as tile layers that cannot be used for complex analysis or symbolization, the app allows you filter scenes for specific dates and display scenes in a variety of band combinations. If your needs are limited to straightforward visualization, this data can save you the time, effort, and storage needed to download and process this data directly from sources like NASA or USGS.

Add the Data

Start a new Map in ArcGIS Online, click the Add button, Search for Layers in ArcGIS Online, and find one of these layers:

The video below demonstrates adding a Landsat layer.

Adding a remotely-sensed data layer in ArcGIS Online

Set The Image Display

ArcGIS Online provides a variety of different way of displaying the different bands available in the data sources above.

Click on the ellipsis (...) beside the layer, select Image Display, and under Renderer, choose from one of the following:

The video below demonstrates adding changing the renderer to NDVI colorized:

Changing the image display

Select Scene(s)

Remotely-sensed data is continuously captured as the satellite flies over the face of the earth, but it is commonly cut into more-manageable blocks of rasters called scenes for distribution and analysis.

By default, layers display an overview mosaic of scenes from different dates that are stitched together to show the extent covered by the layer and what the scenes generally look like.

To select a specific scene from a specific time (or range of times) for a specific area:

The video below demonstrates selecting scenes for Maricopa County (Phoenix), Arizona:

Selecting scenes for specific dates and adding them to the map

Provide Geographic Context

Because the data layers obscure the base map, you may want to add some features to provide geographic context that indicates where the data is actually located.

Outline Areas

You can use filtered feature layers with no fill to outline areas.

For this example, we use the ArcGIS Online USA Counties layer with a filter and hollow symboloty display the outline of Maricopa County, which contains Phoenix.

Creating a county outline

Add Labels With Map Notes

If you want to label specific features, you can find them on the base map and annotate them with Map Notes.

This video shows how to add map notes labels.

Adding a label with a map note

Save and Share Your Map

Saving and sharing a map

Other Notable Raster Layers

National Urban Change Indicator (NUCI)

The National Urban Change Indicator (NUCI) uses Maxar’s PCM, a change detection system using Landsat scenes, to detect persistent changes to the landscape resulting from urban development. The NUCI 2016 layer provides a history of change areas on an annual basis from 1987 through 2016. This layer can be useful for research into changes in city form and urban sprawl.

The National Urban Change Indicator layer

Earth at Night (2016)

NASA's Black Marble project provides visualizations of the earth at night. Like the NUCI, it is useful for visualizing the extent of cities.

Earth at Night