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

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!

How did our ancestors navigate through the world without being able to see the Earth from space?

Traveling has always been a challenge. People were trying to find a way to overcome all the obstacles in their path for thousands of years. They were trying to create maps, but there were some difficulties in that – e.g. how to draw a map without knowing where you are located and what’s near you?

What would you do if you were told to get from point A to point B and you did not know where these points were?

You would probably ask someone for directions, but what if there were no people around you? This is the situation that our ancestors faced thousands of years ago. They couldn’t ask anyone for directions to get from point A to point B, so they had to find alternative ways to solve their problem. This is the ancient context in which world maps were created.

The Chinese came up with a solution to this problem in the second century BC, which they called “sinan,” or “pointing south.”

A reproduction of Si Nan – world’s first compass, 400 BC

One of the main purposes of the compass, then, was to serve as a tool for the perfect arrangement of buildings in populated areas, as the geometric principles of Feng Shui show.

The invention of the compass paved the way for the discovery and conquest of the New World by the Europeans.

Do you remember when you were 10 years old, and you thought the compass was one of the most advanced gadgets on Earth? When studying the history of science, we can see that most modern devices have a centuries-long history which is surprising for us.

The next image is an example of something I usually ask my students at Sofia University about – do you currently have a compass in you? Always initially the answer from the hall is a loud NO, but after a few seconds they think and realize that today each of us carries in our pocket the modern version of this navigation device, as a mobile app.

Navigation in open water

The Marshallese people used a complex system of navigational charts created in this way until the second world war. Their stick charts are perfect example for a creative solution to the problem of navigation.

Marshall Islands stick chart - Wikipedia
An example for a stick chart – navigational map from the Marshall islands

We all know that throughout history people have always tried to explore new lands and create a map of the places they’ve gone. In quest to discover a way of navigating around the world without having to figure out what path they took, they invented many sophisticated ways of getting from one place to another.

The Complete Guide to Satellite Maps and How They are Changing the Way We Think of Geography

What is a Satellite Map?

A satellite map is an image of the Earth or another planet that has been created by using a spacecraft. The technology to create satellites was first developed during World War II as part of the efforts to gain accurate mapping data for use in military purposes. Today, satellite maps are used all over the world for many different applications, including navigation and urban planning. Satellite imagery can be used to help monitor natural disasters such as floods or fires, track crop production, study land use changes over time, and more.

Satellite map art is a popular form of home decor that uses satellite imagery to create beautiful and awe-inspiring images. Maps are an interesting subject for artwork because they can be interpreted in many ways, making them suitable for use as decorations. Satellite map art is typically created using digital printing or photo editing software, and the results are often very striking.

How to Choose Which Satellite Map is Right for You?

There are a few things that you need to consider when choosing a satellite map:

1) Coverage area – You’ll want a map with coverage of the areas that you need it. Make sure it includes your intended use area.

2) Detail level – The detail level of the map will determine how much information is available at each pixel. A higher-detail map will show more features and smaller details than a lower-detail one, but may also be slower to load on your device due to the larger file size.

The Future of Satellite Mapping Technology

As satellite mapping technology continues to develop, it will undoubtedly play an even more important role in the world of cartography. In fact, developments in this field may even lead to the development of a new form of cartography – namely, map database cartography. Map database cartography is a type of cartography that uses computerized databases to store and manage maps. As such, map database cartography is much more efficient and reliable than traditional cartography. Accordingly, it is likely to become the mainstream form of cartography in the future.

Radio Garden – our favorite virtual globe

There’s a lot of new technology out there, and you might be wondering what geographers do with it all. Geography is a fascinating science that uses technological and innovative tools from to study the Earth.

It is difficult to say how many technologies are used by geographers around the world. Maybe the most important are Geographic Information Systems, Remote Sensing, Global Navigation Satellite Systems, Drones and VR. Geographers also use various tools like crowdsourcing and digital citizenship. But there are so many more—it seems like every day we learn about a new way we can use technology to improve our knowledge of our surroundings.

Every time you can’t find the nearest store, you turn to Google Maps and find the shortest way. The same happens when you order food or book a hotel.

But where were we before the geospatial revolution? We didn’t know whether we should turn right or left; we couldn’t see what it was like in that hotel; and we didn’t know if our friends were at home.

You have to know that (almost) everything in this world can be placed on a map. Let me show you now our favorite virtual globe. Radio Garden invites you to tune into thousands of live radio stations across the globe.

By bringing distant voices close, radio connects people and places. From its very beginning, radio signals have crossed borders. Radio makers and listeners have imagined both connecting with distant cultures, as well as re-connecting with people from ‘home’ from thousands of miles away. In the early decades of wireless telegraphy, radio amateurs wished to talk with each other across the world and to listen in on the voices of other cultures.

As the BBC World Service began broadcasting in the 1930s, radio afforded a means for global audiences to encounter new ideas and different ways of thinking about the world. Perhaps more importantly, it meant that people from different countries could communicate directly with each other.

Open https://radio.garden/, hit the Play button, and enjoy music and languages ​​from around the world. With the click of a button, you can travel the world through radio programs that are produced by people in different countries.

Agriculture in Sahara – patterns captured from space

As populations grow and climate change creates new conditions, farmers are looking to increase productivity in those areas of the world where climate, soil, or available land is less than ideal for growing crops.

Over the past 10 years, agriculture has used approximately 86% of the world’s accessible freshwater supply, and climate change threatens to reduce water supplies even further in the coming decades. Food security is one of the many human rights that must be provided for as part of an effective response to climate change; every human being has a right to proper nutrition and food security.

As the world’s population approaches 8 billion, the need to feed more people with limited land and resources is growing. The Sahara Desert is expanding 30 miles per year, roughly the same rate as a fingernail grows.

In this gallery you can see the different patterns agricultural areas in the region have, as seen from the satellites of the European Space Agency, Copernicus programme.

The beautiful Sete Cidades Massif at São Miguel island, Azores

You know the feeling when you just wake up and want to start the day with something special? Here is a great story about Sete Cidades Massif is for you!

Sete Cidades Massif is located in the western part of the island of São Miguel, in the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores (explore it in Google Maps here). Situated in western São Miguel, the massif is a regional landmark, visible from various points on the island and consists of Mount of Topo and Sete Cidades, two volcanic structures located at an altitude of 1,003m (3,287ft) above sea level.

We use data from the European Space Agency to show you the most amazing stories around the globe.

🛰️ Follow us on Instagram to discover the most beautiful places on Earth

Imagery: Copernicus programme, Sentinel-2 (2021).