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Meteorologisches Institut

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Why did we introduce Adopt-a-Vortex?

Because of budget cuts in spring 2002 the observation service of the FU Meteorological Institute’s Weather Station 10381 (Berlin-Dahlem) was reduced to a mere eight hour shift in the morning. During the other 16 hours the observations should only consist of automatic data, such as temperature, pressure, relative humidity and wind. Important parameters as cloud coverage, kinds of clouds, snow, hail, thunderstorms and lightning, glazed frost and icing should stay unnoticed. As we, students of Meteorology, became aware of these restrictions we spontaneously decided to staff the missing 16 hours. An uninterrupted daily meteorological observations dating back to 1701 must not cease due to a lack of funds.

Messwerterfassung    Messwerterfassung
Students at the Weather Station

But why do students volunteer to observe the weather 16 hours a day, 7 days a week? The answer is simple: We are students of meteorology. And generally we are crazy. Especially concerning the weather. Furthermore we want to maintain the unique situation at our university, the Free University of Berlin, to be the only students in Germany who have their own WMO weather station at their institute. Thus only here we have the opportunity to watch the weather actively and get a practical education getting insight of observation, diagnostics and prognostics of the daily weather.

Besides these advantages, the scientific value of our task motivates us to go on as well. For more than 100 years the weather is observed with a resolution of one minute in Berlin-Dahlem. Thus the “Berliner Reihe” is one of the longest, oldest, uninterrupted climate records in the world. The data gained here is not only needed by scientists for their research, it is also used for the daily weather forecast and is basic information for energy production, construction companies, winter services, firms and organisers. Even assurances depend on our weather observations, on request the FU meteorologists prepare expertises for them.

All these operations and applications depend on minute data. By no chance a person can measure the temperature more accurately than an electric thermometer. But he or she is able to recognise, whether the thermometer is out of order, or whether the precipitation detector reports rain from cloudless skies. Though automatic weather stations are able to detect precipitation, they cannot distinguish between rain, snow or hail. They are not able to classify the clouds or recognise optical phenomena as rainbows or afterglow (sunset and sun rise colours). But even this information is important for the meteorologist’s work.

Because of these reasons we students have been the main observers since March 2002. About 20 of us take care for two third of the weather and climate observations. During the first two weeks we did the observations without compensation while we tried to find a sustainable financing strategy at the same time. Nevertheless we were very successful in hunting for donations, it is not possible to build a lasting observation service based on donations only. Therefore we thought of using the traditional right of the Institute of Meteorology for giving names to the highs and the lows. So the ‘Aktion Wetterpate’ (Adopt-a-Vortex) was born. With your help, the sciences in Berlin are supported and the Weather Station 10381 (Berlin-Dahlem) is rescued.

Students of Meteorology at the FU Berlin - Berlin, 10/30/2003


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