Land use is an essential human activity to meet demands for food, fiber, shelter, and natural resources. But land cover change to meet human demands for resources and land use in themselves cause greenhouse gas emissions and affect the climate through biophysical interactions, while maintaining ecosystems with higher carbon stocks is an option for mitigating climate change. Thus, global models used to analyze climate change, its impacts, and options for mitigation or adaptation include representations of land cover and land use.

With support by NASA’s Advancing Collaborative Connections for Earth System Science (ACCESS) program, the Global Land Cover Facility and the Joint Global Change Research Institute of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Maryland collaborate in the development of land cover data for use with global-scale models. Global mosaics of the standard MODIS land cover data products, reprojected into geographic coordinates and aggregated to resolutions commonly used with global models, are primary products of this ACCESS project.

Currently, global land cover data in the IGBP Classification are available at 5' latitude × 5' longitude and at 0.5° latitude × 0.5° longitude spatial resolutions for the years 2001-2012. The Global Land Cover Facility distributes these global data in two file formats: (1) GeoTIFF, and (2) ESRI ASCII Grid.

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