Research was undertaken to evaluate the feasibility of monitoring the small ephemeral water bodies of the Sahel with the 1.1 km resolution data of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR). Twenty-one lakes of western Niger with good ground observation records were selected for examination. Thematic Mapper images from 1988 were first analysed to determine surface areas and temperature differences between water and adjacent land. Six AVHRR scenes from the 1988-89 dry season were then studied. It was found that a lake can be monitored until its surface area drops below 10 ha, in most cases. Furthermore, with prior knowledge of the location and shape of a water body, its surface area can be estimated from AVHRR band 5 data to within about 10 ha. These results are explained by the sharp temperature contrast between water and land, on the order of 13?? C.