In an ever-changing environment, the need for accurate, timely and high-resolution information on land use/land cover and its changes has increased tremendously. However, until now, regional or continental land cover maps either used low-resolution images (>100 m) as input or were based exclusively on high-resolution optical Earth observation data, such as Sentinel-2 or Landsat. The use of SAR data such as Sentinel-1 to produce large area land cover maps is still in its infancy.
For this purpose and inspired by the 2017 WorldCover conference the European Space Agency (ESA) initiated the WorldCover project. The key outcome of this project was the release in October 2021 of a freely accessible global land cover product at 10 m resolution for 2020 based on both Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 data, containing 11 land cover classes and independently validated with a global overall accuracy of about 75%.
Following the positive feedback from the users, ESA decided to extend the WorldCover project and requested the WorldCover consortium to also produce a new 2021 version of the product with even higher quality. This new WorldCover map for 2021 was released on 28 October 2022 and resulted in a global overall accuracy of 76.7%.