The possibilities of disease prediction based on the environmental characteristics of geographical areas and specific requirements of the causative infectious agents are reviewed and, in the case of parasites whose life cycles involve more than one host, the needs of the intermediate hosts are also referred to. The geographical information systems framework includes epidemiological data, visualization (in the form of maps), modelling and exploratory analysis using spatial statistics. Examples include climate-based forecast systems, based on the concept of growing degree days, which now exist for several parasitic helminths such as fasciolosis, schistosomiasis, dirofilariasis and also for malaria. The paper discusses the limits of data collection by remote sensing in terms of resolution capabilities (spatial, temporal and spectral) of sensors on-board satellites. Although the data gained from the observation of oceans, land, elevations, land cover, land use, surface temperatures, rainfall, etc. are primarily for weather forecasting, military and commercial use, some of this information, particularly that from the climate research satellites, is of direct epidemiological utility. Disease surveillance systems and early-warning systems (EWS) are prime examples of academic approaches of practical importance. However, even commercial activities such as the construction of virtual globes, i.e. computer-based models of the Earth, have been used in this respect. Compared to conventional world maps, they do not only show geographical and man-made features, but can also be spatially annotated with data on disease distribution, demography, economy and other measures of particular interest.