Little Picture - counting lakes from space

satellites provide long-term lake monitoring to track how they have changed over the past five decades

Lakes are key indicators of climate change, capturing its effects directly and indirectly through surrounding areas. To respond and adapt to climate change effectively, we need a global and consistent record of lake data.

Satellite monitoring of lakes is vital for studying their response to climate change and tracking variations in their extent (or area), surface temperature, and ice cover (and thickness) and biogeochemical process via ‘water leaving reflectance’ over time.

lakes monitored from space


The Little Picture graphic uses satellite observations to illustrate the number of lake area across the world's continents.


This repository contains a Jupyter notebook which conducts an exploratory data analysis on the CCI World's lakes data availability. The notebook handles data preparation and visualization, including generating plots for the distribution of lakes by continent. The plots take up the spatial arrangement of the continents, but incorporate their own visual effect through orientation and scaling.

The Little Picture uses the following datasets:


The code and documentation used to build this Little Picture can be found on the following github repository –


This little picture is published under CC BY-SA 4.0 licence.

The big picture

The European Space Agency (ESA), the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) work closely together to measure, process & make space-derived information about the climate available.


The mission of the Climate Change Initiative (CCI) is to realise the full potential of the long-term global Earth Observation archives that the European Space Agency (ESA), together with its Member states, has established over the past 40 years, as a significant and timely contribution to the climate databases required by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The ESA Climate Office provides a free & open CCI data facility bringing together ECV data from across its twenty-seven climate science projects, including a CCI Data Standards and a CCI Toolbox.


The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) supports society by providing freely available authoritative information about the past, present and future climate in Europe and the rest of the World. C3S is one of the six thematic information services provided by the Copernicus Earth Observation Programme of the European Union, and has been entrusted by the European Commission to the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF). One of the core components of C3S includes the Climate Data Store (CDS). This is a one-stop shop for climate information. It provides free and easy access to a wide range of climate datasets via a searchable catalogue. A freely available online toolbox allows users to build workflows and applications suited to their needs.


EUMETSAT operates missions both to provide weather and climate data for its member states, and as an entrusted entity under the Copernicus programme. Several missions are operated collaboratively with ESA, providing complimentary expertise and data processing, to process and distribute land, marine, and atmosphere relevant products for users. Data from EUMETSAT operated missions is frequently available in near-real-time, facilitating rapid monitoring and forecasting. Via EUMETCast, the EUMETSAT Data Services, or WEkEO, users can access data in ways that suit their needs. The data is used by the EUMETSAT satellite applications facilities, as well as across the various Copernicus Services.

Further Reading

Agence France-Presse (AFP) Fact Check article Declining wildfire area does not disprove climate change’s role (30 June 2022), with contributions from ESA & ECMWF.


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