“MeteoAlpen” – A Citizen Science Project for the Verification of Weather Models

Walking, hiking, touring, mountaineering or one of the countless other activities lure us into nature and the mountains. As a place for sporting activities, eventful adventures or leisurely relaxation, Switzerland’s mountain landscape has something to offer for a wide variety of tastes. But a trip into nature is always accompanied by questions about what to wear, what the weather will be like and whether the visibility is good. Making weather forecasts is a demanding activity. In areas like the Alps, where the topography changes greatly over small distances and there are relatively few measuring stations, precise forecasts are particularly difficult. However, these areas are highly frequented by a wide variety of outdoor sports enthusiasts. The targeted collection of weather data in the mountains can enable better weather forecasts and serve as a cornerstone for further applications. In their project “MeteoAlpen”, the Open Mind Institute (OMI) pursues the goal of collecting data together with outdoor athletes in order to check weather models in Alpine regions. As a Citizen Science project, various workshops were held with citizens and researchers to plan and conceptualise the project. Existing activities are used for the collection of weather data. The user group involved is the one that will benefit from the results. Switzerland’s dense and well-developed network of hiking trails offers an opportunity to greatly refine the coarse-meshed network of measuring stations. The high resolution of the measuring points makes it possible to verify existing weather models, which is not possible with traditional measuring methods. The usefulness of weather forecasts can hardly be overestimated. With over 7 million downloads (as of 11.2017), the MeteoSwiss app is one of the most popular apps in Switzerland. Weather forecasts are indispensable for planning and carrying out leisure activities. But it is not only outdoor sports enthusiasts who are interested in knowing how the weather will behave; agriculture, for example, depends on it. The usefulness of the forecasts depends on the area of application, so that for the hay harvest, information about whether there is rain or not is sufficient, while for vegetable cultivation, the amount of precipitation is more important. For most applications, the weather measuring stations in Switzerland are favourably distributed. They are essentially located where most of the population lives, namely in the lowlands and in the large valleys. One complication of weather forecasting in Alpine regions stems from the complexity of the terrain. The grid width of modern forecast models is one kilometre, whereas the effective resolution is around three to five kilometres. In mountain regions with narrow valleys and large differences in altitude, the models do not provide enough detailed information. With the “Meteo Alpen” project, the OMI, together with the active cooperation of citizens, wants to test the performance of current weather models in areas that traditionally have a low density of measurement data. Participation is very simple and possible for all outdoor sports enthusiasts equipped with a smartphone. The project will start in summer 2020.

The Institute

The Open Mind Institute (OMI) is a non-profit organisation that aims to promote exchange between science and the public. With the conviction that curiosity is a driving force in all people, the OMI aims to promote a scientific way of thinking that not only advances individuals, but also us as a society. The OMI is committed to the two focal areas of education and research. In the area of education, the focus is on the communication and understanding of scientific knowledge. In doing so, they are guided by the four “Cs” of education:

  • Critical thinking,
  • Communication,
  • Cooperation and
  • Creativity.

In the area of research, emphasis is placed on exchange, discussion and collaboration, and Citizen Science is used as a method. The lived conviction is that science is not a professional field, but a way of confronting problems.

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AUTHOR: Manuel Meyer

Dr. Manuel Meyer holds a PhD in Theoretical Physics from the University of Bern. He is co-founder and co-president of the Open Mind Institute and responsible for the operational activities. As an active scout leader, imparting knowledge has always been very important to him and he is committed to a sustainable approach to nature.

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