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Knowing which way the wind blows

SwissMeteo is Switzerland’s national weather and climate service. It collects weather-related data and publishes them on its own app and website, as well as in the official map viewer (map.geo.admin).

10.06.2020 | DKW

The headquarters of the Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology at Zurich Airport
The headquarters of the Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology at Zurich Airport

Monks in the hospice on the Grand St Bernard Pass have been watching the weather for around 200 years. But they are not the only weather watchers in Switzerland: the Federal Office for Meteorology and Climatology operates around 150 automated weather stations which measure precipitation, wind, temperatures and other parameters. It also maintains a network of around 400 stations that measure precipitation only, around half of which are operated manually. In addition, at auxiliary stations observers record cloud formations, visibility, overall cloud cover and other weather phenomena – for example at airports and airfields, where the weather situation is reassessed at half-hourly intervals. Before takeoff, pilots consult these bulletins so that they can learn about the weather conditions they can expect at their destination. Upon request they can also receive updated bulletins during their flight.

Periodical maintenance

“Our network of weather stations has been set up so that it covers the entire country,” says Joël Fisler, partner network coordinator and data steward at SwissMeteo. “Roughly a quarter of our stations are located in mountainous terrain. Some of them are autonomous facilities operated by solar power, while others are operated electrically and are heated and ventilated.” They are maintained on a periodical basis. “On the one hand we employ people who live nearby. They go to their station approximately every two weeks to cut the grass where necessary, clean the appliances, check that the precipitation gauge and ventilation are not blocked and inspect the cables to make sure they have not been chewed by wild animals. In many cases, these tasks are carried out by farmers on whose land our stations are located. And on the other hand, the annual maintenance of our stations is carried out by our crew of technicians. They visit the stations once a year, open up the appliances, calibrate and clean them, and carry out test measurements for comparison purposes.

New data every ten minutes

The automated measuring stations transmit new data every ten minutes. At stations where precipitation is measured manually, the local operators send the results once a day by text message to SwissMeteo. In many cases, the operators are private citizens who keep a precipitation gauge in their garden. They measure and record rainfall levels over a 24-hour period, and in winter they use a special ruler to measure the depth of fresh snow. However, these manual stations will soon be a thing of the past: “Precipitation measurement stations are now being fully automated,” says Joël Fisler.

The Weather Measurement Technology Centre in Payerne
The Weather Measurement Technology Centre in Payerne

Monitoring the development of the climate

The Federal Office for Meteorology and Climatology uses the collected data not only for preparing weather forecasts, but also for a broad variety of other purposes. “Monitoring the weather and climate is just one of our many tasks. Our measurement data also flow into a model that we use to develop climate scenarios,” explains Estelle Grüter, head of Data Integration at SwissMeteo. These scenarios indicate how the climate could develop in Switzerland and enable SwissMeteo to determine the potential consequences.“ One of our activities concerns the development of adaptation strategies in collaboration with the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN). Here, the aim is to determine how the agriculture sector can adjust itself to climate change.” This calls for lengthy meteorological reference series such as those recorded on the Grand St Bernard, which supply vital information about the way in which the climate is changing.

Greater visibility thanks to map.geo.admin – and value-added for everyone

SwissMeteo publishes weather-related data on its own app and website, as well as on the official map viewer website (map.geo.admin.ch). The data can then be integrated into other websites, e.g. news portals. As Joël Fisler recalls: “When the heat warnings were issued last summer, the Tages-Anzeiger integrated our data into its article via iFrame, and the personnel at swisstopo witnessed how the access rates exploded.”

For SwissMeteo, map.geo.admin is another distribution channel which increases the visibility of its data – and thus creates value-added for the entire population. Its cooperation with swisstopo is also yielding other benefits: “For the calculation of the solar energy potential of roofs and façades we have combined our global solar radiation map with the building data collected by swisstopo in its swissBUILDINGS3D dataset,” says Estelle Grüter. “The results are then published in cooperation with the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) on its sonnendach.ch platform, which makes it easy for people to find out how much solar electricity they could produce on their roof or façade.”

20th anniversary of COGIS (Coordination of Geoinformation and Services)

The COGIS (Coordination of Geoinformation and Services) Division commenced operation on 1 January 2000. Its mandate: to secure coordination in the field of geoinformation so that it would not be necessary for each federal office and each canton to develop its own infrastructure. Under the influence of COGIS, swisstopo was transformed from a producer of geodata into a service centre whose products and services can benefit the entire population. One of the products COGIS created is the “map.geo.admin.ch” geoportal, which offers a diverse and comprehensive range of attractive services for everyone.

Further information about COGIS
Federal Office of Topography swisstopo Seftigenstrasse 264
P.O. Box
3084 Wabern
Tel.
+41 58 469 01 11

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Federal Office of Topography swisstopo

Seftigenstrasse 264
P.O. Box
3084 Wabern

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