Summary This paper presents the results of an investigation into the utility of remote sensing (RS) using meteorological satellites sensors and spatial interpolation (SI) of data from meteorological stations, for the prediction of spatial variation in monthly climate across continental Africa in 1990. Information from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) polar-orbiting meteorological satellites was used to estimate land surface temperature (LST) and atmospheric moisture. Cold cloud duration (CCD) data derived from the High Resolution Radiometer (HRR) on-board the European Meteorological Satellite programme's (EUMETSAT) Meteosat satellite series were also used as a RS proxy measurement of rainfall. Temperature, atmospheric moisture and rainfall surfaces were independently derived from SI of measurements from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) member stations of Africa. These meteorological station data were then used to test the accuracy of each methodology, so that the appropriateness of the two techniques for epidemiological research could be compared. SI was a more accurate predictor of temperature, whereas RS provided a better surrogate for rainfall; both were equally accurate at predicting atmospheric moisture. The implications of these results for mapping short and long-term climate change and hence their potential for the study and control of disease vectors are considered. Taking into account logistic and analytical problems, there were no clear conclusions regarding the optimality of either technique, but there was considerable potential for synergy.