MODIS Land surface type



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This data set contains the global land cover type derived from observations and products (Collection 6) of the MODIS sensors aboard both, TERRA and AQUA platforms - MCD12C1. Data of an entire year are used to come up with a high-quality annual composite of the land cover type according to the definition of the International Geosphere Biosphere Programme (IGBP) and, in addition, with respect to the LAI/FAPAR biome classification. According to the IGBP definition 17 land cover types are represented in this data set, 11 of which are natural vegetation, 3 of which are barren or without vegetation while the remaining 3 comprise a mixture of different types and/or artificial vegetation such as croplands. The LAI/FAPAR classification uses only 11 surface types. We did not include the data of the surface type classification after the University of Maryland (UMD) scheme because we found inconsistencies in the original data set and also found it it be very similar to the IGBP one.

These data sets are based on MODIS collection 6.0 data. The data is available for years 2001-2018 with annual resolution in netCDF file format. More information about the data sets is given in the Product User Guide and Algorithm Theoretical Basis Document (ATBD) under References.

Latest data set update at ICDC: October 2, 2019

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Name Unit
Primary IGBP land cover type 0 ... 16
Confidence %
Fraction of IGBP-Class 0: Water %
Fraction of IGBP-Class 1: evergreen needleleaf forest %
Fraction of IGBP-Class 2: evergreen broadleaf forest %
Fraction of IGBP-Class 3: deciduous needleleaf forest %
Fraction of IGBP-Class 4: deciduous broadleaf forest %
Fraction of IGBP-Class 5: mixed forest %
Fraction of IGBP-Class 6: closed shrublands %
Fraction of IGBP-Class 7: open shrublands %
Fraction of IGBP-Class 8: woody savannas %
Fraction of IGBP-Class 9: savannas %
Fraction of IGBP-Class 10: grasslands %
Fraction of IGBP-Class 11: permanent wetlands %
Fraction of IGBP-Class 12: croplands %
Fraction of IGBP-Class 13: urban and built-up %
Fraction of IGBP-Class 14: cropland natural vegetation mosaic %
Fraction of IGBP-Class 15: snow and ice %
Fraction of IGBP-Class 16: barren or sparsely vegetated %
Primary LAI/FAPAR land cover type 0 ... 10
Confidence %
Fraction of LAI-Class 0: water %
Fraction of LAI-Class 1: grasslands %
Fraction of LAI-Class 2: shrublands %
Fraction of LAI-Class 3: broadleaf croplands %
Fraction of LAI-Class 4: savannas %
Fraction of LAI-Class 5: evergreen broadleaf forests %
Fraction of LAI-Class 6: deciduous broadleaf forests %
Fraction of LAI-Class 7: evergreen needleleaf forests %
Fraction of LAI-Class 8: deciduous needleleaf forests %
Fraction of LAI-Class 9: non-vegetated %
Fraction of LAI-Class 10: urban and built-up %

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Coverage, spatial and temporal resolution

Period and temporal resolution:

  • 2001 - 2018
  • Yearly

Spatial coverage and resolution:

  • Global
  • Spatial resolution: 0.05° x 0.05° (about 5600 m, Climate Modeling Grid)
  • Geographic latitude: 89.975°S to 89.975°N
  • Geographic longitude: 179.975°W to 179.975°E
  • Dimension: 3600 rows x 7200 columns
  • Altitude: follows topography


  • NetCDF

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Data quality

Both data sets (IGBP and LAI/FAPAR classifications) contain a confidence estimate for the classification into the primary land surface cover types

A number of evaluation and validation studies has been performed for this MODIS collection 6 data set which is given a validation stage 2. More information about the status of the validation can be found in the references.

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Damien Sulla-Menashe
Boston University
Center for Remote Sensing
email: dsm (at) bu.edu

Mark Friedl
Boston University
Center for Remote Sensing
email: friedl (at) bu.edu

Stefan Kern
ICDC / CEN / Universität Hamburg
email: stefan.kern (at) uni-hamburg.de

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  • https://lpdaac.usgs.gov/products/mcd12c1v006/
  • MODIS Landoberflächentyp ATBD
  • Product User Guide
  • Abercrombie, S.P. and Friedl, M.A., (2016). Improving the Consistency of Multitemporal Land Cover Maps Using a Hidden Markov Model. IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, 54(2):703-713
  • Friedl, M.A., et al., (2010). MODIS Collection 5 global land cover: Algorithm refinements and characterization of new datasets. Remote Sensing of Environment, 114(1):168-182
  • Sulla-Menashe, D., et al., (2011). Hierarchical mapping of Northern Eurasian land cover using MODIS data. Remote Sensing of Environment, 115(2):392-403
  • Sulla-Menashe, D., Gray, J.M., Abercrombie, S.P., and Friedl, M.A. (under review) Hierarchical mapping of annual global land cover 2001 to present: The modis collection 6 land cover product. Remote Sensing of Environment.

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Data citation

Upon using this data please cite as follows:

Friedl, M., Sulla-Menashe, D. (2015). MCD12C1 MODIS/Terra+Aqua Land Cover Type Yearly L3 Global 0.05Deg CMG V006. NASA EOSDIS Land Processes DAAC. doi: 10.5067/MODIS/MCD12C1.006 [last accessed: Sep. 25 2019] - provided in netCDF file format by the Integrated Climate Data Center (ICDC, icdc.cen.uni-hamburg.de)

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