Temperature of the surface layer of temperate lakes is reconstructed by means of a simplified model on the basis of air temperature alone. The comparison between calculated and observed data shows a remarkable agreement (Nash-Sutcliffe efficiency indices always larger than 0.87, mean absolute errors of approximately 1 degrees C) for all 14 lakes investigated (Mara, Sparkling, Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, Ontario, Biel, Zurich, Constance, Garda, Neusiedl, Balaton, and Baikal, in west-to-east order), which present a wide range of morphological and hydrological characteristics. Differently from a pure heat flux balance approach, where the different fluxes are determined on the basis of independent relationships, the input data directly inform parameters of a simple model that, in turn, provides meaningful information about the properties of the real system. The dependence of the model parameters on the main morphological indicators is presented, which allows for a quantitative description of the strong influence of the mean depth of the lake on the thermal inertia and the hysteresis pattern between air and lake surface temperatures.