My aim is to read time series with Python from a stack of spatially aligned GeoTIFF files as efficient as possible. The time series is not only limited to one pixel, but can also relate to a certain region of interest, delineated by a bounding box. To do so, I am creating a VRT file stacking all relevant GeoTIFF files in the right order. Then, I open the VRT file and extract the time series by specifying the pixel coordinates or bounding box of interest.

I tested this procedure on two systems:

  1. Local Windows 10 PC with 4 physical cores, 32GB RAM. Data is stored on a NTFS HDD.
  2. Centos 7 virtual machine on a cluster with 16 physical cores, 64GB RAM. Data is stored on a distributed file system (I don't have more detailed information here).

When comparing the reading performance on both systems, 2 is much slower e.g., 2-3 times.

Why doesn't VRT/GDAL use multiple cores to read data stored at different locations (as it is the case regarding 2)?

1 Answer 1


From your question, you appear to want to read time series of individual pixels. The fastest way I have found for this is to convert the VRT to a geotiff with option "INTERLEAVE=BAND".

If that's not an option (because it takes loads of disk space), you can also use a ThreadPool:

from concurrent.futures import ThreadPoolExecutor
from functools import partial
from osgeo import gdal

def read_pxl(band,x,y, g):
    return g.GetRasterBand(band).ReadAsArray(xoff=x, yoff=y,
                                win_xsize=1, win_ysize=1)
g = gdal.Open(my_super_duper_fname)
n_bands = g.RasterCount
wrapper=partial(read_pxl, g=g, x=1800, y=600)
with ThreadPoolExecutor(max_workers=20) as exec:
    retval = exec.map(wrapper, range(1, n_bands + 1))

In your case, if you use the threadpool it may just be faster to index the independent GeoTIFF files directly without going via the VRT.

  • Thank you @Jose ! This solution works like charm. I also extended it to work for arbitrary locations and spatial extents. But I wonder why VRT is not optimised for time series reading, but it seems like that this intermediate format causes some intermediate traffic causing IO to slow down.
    – clax
    Dec 5, 2021 at 22:33

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