Powerful Computers in Arsenal of German National Meteorological Service
Enlarge image German Meteorlogical Service Computers (© picture-alliance / dpa) The German National Meteorological Service’s data processing center is best explored wearing earplugs. Three computer systems run an imposing length of 8 meters and rise two meters high. They blink and buzz around the clock, every day. “Here, the global weather is forecast twice a day for the seven following days,” said Uwe Kirsche of the National Meteorological Service (DWD). European weather is also calculated and predicted four times per day for the upcoming four days. The systems simultaneously asses the atmospheric conditions inGermanyfor the next 48 hours, recounted Kirsche.
The high-capacity computers, valued at 40 million euros, last for four years under their intense, daily workloads before they need to be replaced, explained Kirsche. All of the measured data from weather stations around the world flow into this station. Kirsche explained that this worldwide view is a necessity; a meteorologist cannot predict rain or shine for Germany without reading the skies in South American or Siberia.
The largest challenge for meteorologists is to evaluate the forecast for smaller regions. “That it will rain tomorrow in Germany is certain,” said meteorologist Andreas Friedrich from the DWD’s central forecasting, but whether it will rain and storm in Darmstadt or Kassel is, according to the scientist, the crux of the matter.
Even more complicated are the so-called “white spots” on the map. Friedrich explained that in many regions of the world, like in Africa, there are very few weather stations, and that “this muddles the precision of the forecast.”
However, aside from the land-bound weather stations, every Lufthansa plane collects valuable atmospheric data on their global treks. Their installed measuring devices send the temperature, barometric pressure and wind statistics upon take-off and landing, said Kirsche.
Aside from predicting the weather, the DWD’s second task since its founding in 1952 is to warn of extreme, dangerous weather. “Warnings about heavy storms are possible for us only on short notice,” said Friedrich, who is also a storm expert. One cannot make any serious predictions more than three hours before, although advancing storms that cover a large area can be predicted a few days before.
The German National Meteorological Service celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.