Lake Tahoe

EROS Cal/Val Center of Excellence (ECCOE)
Test Sites Catalog
Lake Tahoe
Landsat 8 LandsatLook Image Path 43 Row 33 Acquired 02 Aug 2020 with ROI indicated Landsat 8 LandsatLook Image of Lower Portion of Lake Tahoe


Lake Tahoe is a large, deep lake situated in a granite graben near the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the border of California and Nevada. It is the second deepest lake in the United States with average depth of 333 meters (m); length of 35 k; width of 19 km, surface area of about 490 km2, and total volume of approximately 156 km3 [1]. Due to its depth, the lake does not freeze during the winter season, as temperatures vary from about 4 to 20 degrees C throughout the year. Lake Tahoe also has high water clarity and is at a high altitude, which makes it an ideal target for thermal sensor calibration. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has operated buoys on Lake Tahoe for many years [4].


Lake Tahoe is a radiometric and vicarious calibration site with buoy data used as in-situ measurements to validate the accuracy of Landsat sensors. The site has also been used for Landsat 8 Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS) vicarious radiometric calibration [3] and for validating in-flight calibration accuracy of the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) polar orbiting satellite sensors [5]. In a recent study, the water properties of this lake have been analyzed using the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) [1].

Location (City, State, Country):
Lake Tahoe, CA/NV, USA, North America
Landsat WRS - 2 Path / Row:
Center Latitude (degrees):
N 39.00
Center Longitude (degrees):
W 120.00
Size of Usable Area (km):
33 x 18
Altitude above sea level (meters):
Co-located Instrumented Networks:

  1. Wang, Menghua, Wei Shi, and Shohei Watanabe. "Satellite-measured water properties in high altitude Lake Tahoe." Water research 178 (2020): 115839.
  2. Aaron Moody, Curtis E. Woodcock,Calibration-based models for correction of area estimates derived from coarse resolution land-cover data,Remote Sensing of Environment,Volume 58, Issue 3,1996,Pages 225-241,ISSN 0034-4257,
  3. Robert John Parada Jr., Kurtis J. Thome, and Richard P. Santer "Results of dark target vicarious calibration using Lake Tahoe", Proc. SPIE 2957, Advanced and Next-Generation Satellites II, (27 January 1997);
  4. Barsi, Julia A., John R. Schott, Simon J. Hook, Nina G. Raqueno, Brian L. Markham, and Robert G. Radocinski. "Landsat-8 thermal infrared sensor (TIRS) vicarious radiometric calibration." Remote Sensing 6, no. 11 (2014): 11607-11626. 
  5. Hook, Simon J., R. Greg Vaughan, Hideyuki Tonooka, and S. Geoffrey Schladow. "Absolute radiometric in-flight validation of mid infrared and thermal infrared data from ASTER and MODIS on the Terra spacecraft using the Lake Tahoe, CA/NV, USA, automated validation site." IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing 45, no. 6 (2007): 1798-1807. 

Note: This information has been compiled by the USGS ECCOE Team, using the best sources currently known. Updates will be made as more information becomes available. Please contact with any updates you would like to contribute.