2022: Satellite Data Maps A Year of Climate Extremes

I don’t know what was your climate experience in 2022, but for most of the people in Europe we could say that it was a really hot one. Yesterday the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) published its 2022 Global Climate Highlights and it was not surprising that the data showed some scary facts. 2022 was a year of extremes, with many temperature records broken and a continued rise in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere:

  • Summer 2022 was the hottest on record for Europe and, overall, last year was the second warmest year on record for Europe, while globally it was the fifth warmest.
Ranking of 2022 surface air temperatures by country over the period since 1950. Data source: ERA5. Credit: Copernicus Climate Change Service/ECMWF.
  • Several temperature records were broken both in Europe and across the world, while other extreme events such as drought and flooding affected large regions.
  • Europe saw its hottest summer ever recorded (the previous hottest summer was in 2021) and several prolonged and intense heatwaves affected parts of western and northern Europe.
Credit: Copernicus C3S / ECMWF
  • Autumn was the third warmest on record, only beaten by 2020 and 2006, while winter temperatures were around 1°C above average.
  • Spring temperatures for Europe as a whole were just below the average of the 1991-2020 reference period.
  • In terms of monthly averages, nine months were above average, while three (March, April and September) were below average.
  • The continent experienced its second warmest June ever recorded at about 1.6°C above average and its warmest October, with temperatures nearly 2°C above average.
  • All of Europe, with the exception of Iceland saw annual temperatures above the 1991-2020 average.
  • Globally, during 2022, the world experienced its fifth warmest year on record, according to the C3S ERA5 dataset.
  • Both polar regions saw episodes of record temperatures during 2022.

What is more interesting is that, according to C3S, in 2022 there were the highest CO2 levels in 2 million years.
Preliminary analysis of satellite data averaged over the whole atmospheric column shows that carbon dioxide concentrations rose by approximately 2.1 ppm, while methane rose by around 12 ppb.

Credit: C3S/CAMS/ECMWF/University of Bremen/SRON.

This resulted in an annual average for 2022 of approximately 417 ppm for carbon dioxide and 1894 ppb for methane. For both gases this is the highest concentrations from the satellite record, and by including other records, the highest levels for over 2 million years for carbon dioxide and over 800 000 years for methan.

You can learn more about C3S and its datasets here.

Seeing Through the Fog: a look at how we can distinguish between snow, fog and clouds in satellite images

Fog is a meteorological phenomenon that occurs when water vapor condenses into tiny water droplets or ice crystals in the air, reducing visibility to less than 1 kilometer.

Fog can occur at any time of the year and at any time of the day, but is most common in the early morning or late evening. While fog can be beautiful to look at from the ground, it can also be a nuisance for transportation and cause hazards for pilots. In this post, we’ll take a look at what fog looks like on satellite images, and how meteorologists use these images to study and forecast this meteorological phenomenon.

Satellite images are a powerful tool for studying weather patterns, including fog. There are different types of satellite images that can be used to observe fog, but the most common are visible and infrared images.

Visible images, as the name suggests, capture the visible spectrum of light that is reflected off the Earth’s surface. This type of image is useful for observing the location and extent of fog, as well as other types of clouds. On a visible satellite image, fog will appear as a thin, white layer that hugs the ground. This is because fog is composed of tiny water droplets that scatter light in all directions, making it appear white.

Fog in Northern India, date: 09/01/2023, Credit: European Union, Copernicus Sentinel-2 imagery

Infrared images, on the other hand, capture the infrared radiation emitted by the Earth’s surface. These images are useful for identifying the temperature of the Earth’s surface, which can help meteorologists determine the location and intensity of fog. On an infrared image, fog will appear as a cool, blue or purple color, since the temperature of the water droplets that make up fog is usually cooler than the surrounding air.

One important thing to note is that not all low clouds are fog. Stratus clouds are low clouds that often look similar to fog but they are formed at higher altitudes and they don’t bring visibility reduction. The temperature difference is a key factor to distinguish them, fog tend to have the same temperature as the surface while stratus clouds are warmer.

The first fog or low clouds of the month are persisting over the Po Valley, a sign of the arrival of the autumn season. date: 07/10/2022, location: Po Valley, Italy Credit: European Union, Copernicus Sentinel-3 imagery.

In addition to visible and infrared images, meteorologists also use radar images to study fog. Radar images, which are produced by bouncing radio waves off the atmosphere, can provide information about the precipitation and reflectivity of the atmosphere. On a radar image, fog will appear as a weak echo, since the water droplets that make up fog are too small to be effectively detected by radar.

How to distinguish fog, snow and clouds in a satellite image?

Visual interpretation of images is one of the most important skills that we must constantly practice in order to be able to understand well the processes and objects captured on Earth. Let’s take a look at what she looks like from space:

Landsat-8, USGS / NASA

On this image from 12/18/2019, captured by the Landsat-8 satellite, we can see the western part of Bulgaria – the mountains Vitosha, Verila, the valleys along Struma river and a very small part of Rila mountain in the lower part of the image.

On this day in the morning hours, when the image was taken, we can see the fog occupying the lowest parts of the Sofia city, a small part of the regions near Radomir and Kyustendil and the valley of Struma river.

The fog looks visibly fluffier than the snow that covers the high parts of Vitosha and Rila mountains.

At the same time, if we compare it with clouds, it can be more difficult to distinguish. However, on winter days, when there are typical temperature inversions in the valleys, the view as in the image above is very typical – in the valleys there is fog, which perfectly nests in the lower landforms, and on the high mountains it’s sunny and cloudless.

Fog can be beautiful to observe from the ground, but it can also be a nuisance for transportation and cause hazards for pilots. Satellite images are a valuable tool for meteorologists to study and forecast this meteorological phenomenon, and can be used to determine the location, extent, and temperature of fog, as well as its reflectivity and precipitation.

Introducing GIS & Satellites Data To The Next Generation Of Geographers

If you are a geography teacher or student and want to get into the world of GIS and satellite imagery, this article is for you. In it, we’ll go through what you need to know about the fundamentals of GIS and how your students can learn more about space and Earth Observation satellites.

A lot of information is covered in a geography training accross the world, and while the basics of the discipline are of great importance, it is always a good idea to expand the knowledge you or your students have by exploring new things to learn, especially in the era of innovations and technological development.

Below you will find a suggested curriculum structure that covers topics from both the world of GIS and Earth Оbservation .

Introduction to Geospatial Technologies

Digital Cartography, GIS, and Earth Оbservation

This first part could provide an overview of GIS and Earth Observation, explaining what they are and how they are used in geography and other fields. It could also introduce all the free and open source tools that will be used, for example:

  • Google Earth (web)
  • Google MyMaps
  • QGIS

The content could be structured as follows:

  • Definition of GIS

A brief explanation of what GIS is and how it is used to analyze and visualize spatial data.

GIS stands for Geographic Information System. It is a system of software, hardware, and data that is used to analyze and visualize spatial data.

  • Definition of Earth Observation (EO)

A brief explanation of what EO is and how it is used to collect data about the Earth from satellite imagery and other remote sensing techniques.

  • Overview of open source tools

An overview of the open source tools that will be used in the course, including QGIS and any other relevant software.

  • Introduction to spatial data

A brief explanation of the different types of spatial data, including vector and raster data, and how they are used in GIS and EO.

Spatial data is data that has a geographic component, meaning it is related to a specific location on the Earth’s surface. This can include things like maps, satellite imagery, and geospatial datasets that contain information about features on the Earth’s surface, such as roads, buildings, rivers, and land cover.

  • Overview of geospatial applications

A brief overview of the various fields and applications in which GIS and earth observation are used, such as environmental monitoring, disaster management, and urban planning.

  • Introduction to QGIS (practice)

A brief introduction to QGIS, including how to download and install the software and how to navigate the user interface.

  • Basic GIS concepts and techniques

GIS allows users to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, and present spatial data. It can be used to create maps and visualizations, perform spatial analysis and modeling, and solve problems related to geography and the environment.

GIS is used in a wide range of fields and applications, including environmental science, urban planning, public health, transportation, and disaster management. It is an important tool for understanding and solving complex problems that have a spatial component.

This part could cover fundamental GIS concepts and techniques, such as map projections, coordinate systems, and spatial data types. It could also introduce the basics of QGIS, including how to create and edit vector and raster data.

  • Working with spatial data

This part could cover how to import and export spatial data in various formats, as well as how to manipulate and analyze spatial data using QGIS. It could also introduce concepts such as spatial queries and spatial statistics.

  • Visualizing spatial data

This part could cover how to create maps and other visualizations using QGIS, including how to customize map layouts and use symbology to represent spatial data. It has to be focused on the basic cartographic theories and principles.

The logic behind this structure follows the contemporary workflows that geospatial data specialists and map makers follow:

1) Find data

2) Clean, edit, prepare for visualizing

3) Make maps, diagrams or other data visualization artworks

At the end, you could summarize the key concepts and techniques covered in the course structure and provide suggestions for further reading and resources for those interested in pursuing GIS and EO further.

My favorite places in the whole world: Google MyMaps tutorial and lesson plan for beginners

The learning outcome

In this activity, you will make a map using Google MyMaps, that contains ten of your favorite places in the whole world. These should be 10 point objects added to one map layer. You will also choose a basemap that suits the design of the objects the most.

These objects could be:

  • your favorite meeting place;
  • your favorite café, shop, or mall;
  • your favorite place to go on a holiday
  • the place where you went last summer and fell in love with

First, think about these 10 places. Use a piece of paper to brainstorm and make the list. It is a good idea to have the objects listed before you start making the map.

The theory behind this activity

What is a layer in GIS?

In GIS, a layer is a group of objects from the real world, that have something in common. They don’t appear one by one on GIS maps but are grouped so we can easily work, edit or visualize them, for example, a layer of rivers, a layer of cafes, a layer of shops, etc. Depending on the way these geographical objects look, layers can contain points, lines, polygons, or data represented as pixels (for example satellite images).

What is a basemap?

A basemap is a map layer that provides a basic background of geographical data for a scene or map.

The objective of this activity

is to create a point layer in a web GIS map with a basemap that suits the overall design.

Software and hardware setup

To be able to do the exercise, please create a Gmail account if you don’t have one. Instructions for this can be found here on YouTube or in the Google Help Center.

Step-by-step guide

  • Click “Untitled map” to change the name of your map

  • Type “My 10 favorite places” or choose another name (mapping is a creative process, so you have a freedom 🙂 )
  • Click the “Add a description to help people understand your map” field. This will add a detailed description to your map, so the users looking at it will understand what it is. You can include here your name, affiliation, class or other important information.

  • Click “Save”

  • Click on the name of the layer to change it.

  • Type “My 10 favorite places” or other name that you like. Click Save.

  • Click in the upper menu, on the button that looks like a pin to add your first object to the map.

  • Navigate to the first object you would like to add. Use the mouse to zoom in or out and click to add the first pin. Here the example is showing the Colosseum in Rome.

  • Fill the name and the description of the object.

  • Close the popup.
  • Zoom out and look at the map – you now have one object!
  • Look at the layer on the left side of the screen – there you will see the name of the object and the symbol that represents it. Let’s see how we can change it.
  • Click on the pin that you just added and then on the edit button that looks like a pencil.

  • Choose the symbol and color you like the most. Click on More icons and explore the gallery.

  • Use the filter to search for specific types of symbols that suit your map and object.

  • Click OK and close the popup.
  • Now we will add the second and the third object on the map by using Google search. Start typing the name of the second object in the search bar in the upper part of the screen:

In this example our second object will be the Eiffel tower in Paris, France.

  • When you find the object you want, click “Add to map”.

  • Close the popup. Zoom out and look at the map and the objects in the layers list – the second object is there, listed. You can change the symbol and its color in the same way like in the previous step.
  • Add all the objects from your list on the map.
  • When you are ready, it is time to select the basemap. Click on the label Base map on the left side of the screen, just below the objects of the layer.

  • Choose the one that you like the most.


  • Click “Preview” to see what the map will look like when other users are opening it – now you are seeing it in an edit mode and you like to be sure that it will be nice and tidy.

  • Click “Share” to change the visibility and make your map public.

Congratulations! You just have created your first map in Google MyMaps. It is a web map that contains one layer and one basemap. The layer contains point objects which represent your 10 favorite places in the whole world.

Download this activity as a printable PDF

If you want to download a free printable version of this activity, plase click here >>>

10 Web Mapping Sites To Practice Your GIS Literacy (And Have Fun Doing It)

There are many reasons why using web mapping sites can be fun and beneficial. Kids and teenagers can be inspired by GIS and how to use it by just using cool 3D globes, real-time satellite data, or visualizations.

Additionally, web mapping sites can also be used to create custom maps and share them with others. This can be a great way to learn more about different areas of the world and to show others what you know about GIS. Finally, web mapping sites can be a lot of fun to use simply because they are interactive and allow you to explore different areas of the world in a new and exciting way. Here are my 10 favorite web mapping sites, which I love to demonstrate in front of GIS newbies to show off how cool my job is 🙂

1. My favorite virtual globe – radio.garden

Radio Garden lets you listen to thousands of live radio stations from around the world. Radio connects people and cultures by bringing distant voices close. According to their website, Radio Garden started out in 2016 as an exhibition project commissioned by the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision in the context of the research project Transnational Radio Encounters. It was created, designed and developed by Studio Puckey & Moniker.

You can download a free classroom activity with this globe here >>>

2. The innovative address solution What3Words

A platform that was created, because their founders realized that street addresses aren’t accurate enough to specify precise locations, such as building entrances, and don’t exist for parks and many rural areas.

You can download a free lesson and play around with the website here >>>

3. The easiest way to create a simple map online – Mapchart.net

MapChart.net is a website where you can create custom maps and charts. It is not GIS, but its simplicity can be useful for teaching many geographical topics. Follow the steps I described in this Tiktok video and try it out.

@pixel_maps This is the easiest way to create a map – without GIS, layers, or complex software. Just add categories, choose labels and colors and here you go.#maps #geography #edutoktech #edutok #pixelmaps #geographyteacher #mapping #mapdesign #cartography #cartographytiktok #tiktokteachers #geographers #tiktokgeographers #teachersoftiktok #learntok #mapping ♬ Swan Lake, Op. 20, Act II: No. 10, Scene. Moderato – André Previn & London Symphony Orchestra

4. The media gallery of Copernicus’ website

The Copernicus Programme is a European Union initiative that aims to provide accurate, timely, and easily accessible information about the environment and Earth’s climate.

Its satellites observe the Earth every day and in the section of their website called Image of the day they upload some interesting events captured from space or analysis with their data.

5. Visualization of all roads within any city

This website renders every single road in any city at once. Just write a name and play with the result – it’s something that my students love. Also, showing this website on my Tiktok channel made more than 100K views for a short period of time.

6. Google Timelapse

Google Timelapse is a global, zoomable video that lets you see how the Earth has changed since 1984. It is based on the data from NASA and USGS’s Landsat program and contains also images from the EU Copernicus program. It is available at Google Earth (web) as a layer (click here) or as a standalone website at https://earthengine.google.com/timelapse/. Check Dubai, the Amazon basin, Chinese coast…

Here is a simple activity with instructions on how to find this layer in Google Earth:

Navigate to earth.google.com/
Click Voyager – it’s on the left side.

7. Real-time lightnings

Another nifty tool for weather geeks like me is this real-time map of lightning strikes. If you hear thunder – check it out! It’s fun to use the map and see where Zeus drops his madness.

@pixel_maps I Love this website with real-time data 🌍⚡#mapsoftiktok #fyp #mapping #map #maps #geography #cartographytiktok #europe #european #weather #weatherreport #weatherchallenge #climatechange @pixel_maps @pixel_maps ♬ Stayin Alive – Bee Gees

8. Isochrone map – how far can you go by train in 5h?

This map shows you how far you can travel from each station in Europe in less than 5 hours. It is inspired by the great Direkt Bahn Guru. The data is based off of this site, which sources it from the Deutsche Bahn.

An isochrone map depicts the area accessible from a point within a certain time threshold. An isochrone (iso = equal, chrone = time) is defined as “a line drawn on a map connecting points at which something occurs or arrives at the same time”.In hydrology, urban planning or transportation studies, isochrone maps are used to depict areas of equal travel time.

9. Learn about contours by using contours.axismaps

A contour map is a map that shows the relief (or elevation) of a particular area. The lines on the map represent “contours” or lines of equal elevation. They are often used in mapping and geography lessons worldwide and this website allows you to play with the numbers, colors or check how different relief forms look like visualized by contours.

10. Copernicus Sentinel-5P Tropospheric Nitrogen Dioxide

This web map shows you the tropospheric NO₂ concentrations averaged over 14 days. It uses data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite and gives an overview over the concentrations of nitrogen dioxide across the globe – using a 14-day moving average. Short-lived pollutants, such as nitrogen dioxide, are indicators of changes in economic slowdowns and are comparable to changes in emissions. The 14-day average eliminates some effects which are caused by short term weather changes and cloud cover. The average gives an overview over the whole time period and therefore reflects trends better than shorter time periods.

If you’re interested in learning about GIS and how to use it effectively, web mapping sites are a great place to start. Here I’ve listed some of my favorites. Do you have any suggestions for other cool geo websites? Let me know in the comments!

Geography Education In Singapore: What Are The Schools Doing Right?

In many countries, changes have been made to the education system in recent decades so that it follows trends in scientific development, makes the most of technological advances, and is as close to students as possible. According to PISA results, Singapore students have performed exceptionally in recent years. So let us look at the data from a very extensive analysis of the state of geography education there to try to find out what we can improve in our work by following their example, no matter where we live and work.

The teaching of Geography and Economics in the country has undergone major changes of a purely conceptual nature in the last four decades. The concept of teaching has been reframed from learning about individual countries and regions to understanding the interrelationship between people and changing environments, which reflects the paradigm shift of university geography itself (Agnew & Livingstone, 2011; Agnew, Livingstone, & Rogers, 1996; Cloke, Philo, & Sadler, 1991).

Singapore’s education system is believed to be flexible and responds to environmental changes very quickly. In recent decades, four main phases in its development can be identified, starting from learning about places, countries, and regions through learning to acquire skills with the student himself or herself being the central focus.

By the mid-1970s, topics were organized to revolve around location and descriptive information about it. Since then, many innovations have been introduced to help students understand the interaction of people with the environment, the importance of making informed decisions about the use of natural resources, taking responsibility for actions and their consequences, understanding and respecting the cultures of different people around the world, and taking responsibility for protecting the environment.

If we look in detail at some of the documents available online*, we notice a few key things:

  • the titles of all topics are questions – they start with what, how, and why;
    the objectives everywhere are about stimulating discussion, thinking, and analysis;
  • an exercise called “geographic investigation” is present as a concluding theme, in which children learn the whole process of collecting data, critically analyzing it, visualizing it, and drawing conclusions about processes, and phenomena;
  • the competencies that are defined (see picture below) as objectives to be achieved include building confidence in students, the possibility of self-learning, active citizens who have high self-control, and social sensitivity to the problems of society, among many others.

How To Improve Critical Thinking And Creativity Skills In Students Using GIS (Geographic Information Systems) And Satellite Images Interpretation?

There are a few ways that critical thinking and creative skills can be trained in students by learning with geographic information systems and satellite images. One way is to have students identify patterns in the data that they are looking at. Another way is to have students come up with hypotheses about what might be causing the patterns that they are seeing. Finally, students can be asked to come up with solutions to problems that they see in the data. By doing these things, students will be able to develop their critical thinking and creative skills.

Scientists have long proven that spatial thinking can be developed not only in early childhood, but also in adult life, and each person is capable of improving this with constant practice in real life. This type of thinking helps us navigate our way around town, through nature, and even has a direct bearing on our ability to drive and park. Many professions require good spatial thinking, so we should not underestimate it.

Professionals use different terms for this important aspect of geography education in school, and beyond, of course. This topic could be called ‘digital geographic competences’, ‘digital geography’ or ‘digital geographic literacy’.  Here are several ways we can make geography lessons innovative and interesting to young kids:

  1. Use free web GIS portals to showcase the basic geographic terms, instead of paper maps. There are plenty of websites, offering cool maps with real time data, for example https://earth.nullschool.net/, https://www.windy.com/, radio.garden, etc. You can chaeck our free lesson ideas here.
  2. Introduce some simple satellite image interpretation activities – like why using a drawing to show a volcano, when you can use cool real satellite image, like these from the Copernicus website.
  3. Try out some free web mapping tools like Projects in Google Earth, Google MyMaps or even QGIS.

What do you think about introducing geospatial technologies in the geography classes?

In what direction should the teaching of Geography in your country change in order to become adequate to the XXI century?

What do teachers need to meet the new demands of students who are becoming more and more digital?

*Look here and here.