Unwetterzentrale: 15 years and still growing
MeteoGroup has lots of different services, for business as well as consumers. Sometimes these overlap as many of our consumer customers are in heart amateur meteorologists with a more than a casual interest in meteorology. The German Unwetterzentrale (which is probably best translated as ‘Severe Weather Center’) is one of the most popular MeteoGroup services, serving consumers as well as businesses and public authorities. This year it celebrates its 15 year anniversary. And in style, because the number of visitors, subscribers and page views just keeps going up.
We’ve asked Andreas Wagner, one of our senior meteorologists in Berlin, to tell us more about the success of Unwetterzentrale, or ‘UWZ’, for friends.
“It all started in January 2003 when we set up a warning service in cooperation with regional fire departments, the Fraunhofer Institute Berlin and the VKB Bayern”, Andreas Wagner explains. “At the beginning, the warning area was limited to the level of counties but after a while we were able to develop a growing network of local weather stations, helping us to reach a higher level of detail and accuracy in our forecasts. We were then able to zoom in to warnings on the level of postal codes. As technology progressed we could get more and more accurate data, like high definition radar pictures - every 5 minutes - and satellite pictures and much more and better weather models.”
“In its core, Unwetterzentrale is a public service, offering a higher level of detail in its paid online service. We deliver warnings for all kind of severe weather. We are very proud of our warnings for severe thunderstorms with hail, strong winds, and torrential rain. Using our own special analysis of radar images and lightning data, supported by the data of many weather stations, we can now do warnings on geo-coordinates. This is unique!”
“This warning system offers business customers the advantage of working with alerts, so that warning thresholds can be defined exactly as needed. Also, instead of postal code areas, individual geographic coordinates, specific areas/polygons (e.g., commercial areas, industrial sites, construction sites) or even lines (e.g., streets, railways, power lines) may be guarded. This new warning system offers maximum flexibility and thus weather information tailored specifically to the customer’s needs.”
Severe weather warnings and alerts
“Our public warnings show the intensity level and the time from start to the end of the expected severe weather. We give pre-warnings, from 48 hours up to 72 hours in advance and warnings, 12 to 24 hours in advance, only thunderstorms can be warned just 1 or 2 hours before they hit.
All warnings are available on the website, with the app AlertsPro and also as SMS and Fax. Unwetterzentrale is also available on Facebook and Twitter. The interest is very high, for example on Twitter we have millions of tweet impressions every month. Warning thresholds can be defined as needed and in different languages. In addition, we have cooperation partners that issue our warnings on their websites as well.”
“We have a team of Experts with an experience of many years of severe weather. Warnings are not automated, so that explains the fantastic success of the Unwetterzentrale. Our ‘handmade warnings’ are available for Germany and Switzerland. In theory, we could do ‘handmade warnings’ for every country in the world. But only as a paid service as high-quality warnings require a lot of manpower.”
“This personal involvement of our meteorologists is definitely what sets us apart from any potential competitor. There have been numerous efforts to imitate us but these were never able to reach our quality level. Unwetterzentrale is performed by experts with at least 15 years of weather warning experience, Germany’s biggest network of weather stations and tons of data.”
Climate Change causes more severe weather
“Unwetterzentrale is as healthy as ever. E.g. in August this year, we generated 22 percent more page impressions than in August 2017. This growing interest could well be related to the fact that the weather is becoming more and more extreme as the climate is getting warmer and warmer. Floodings also occur faster, are more severe and happen more frequently, often because there is less vegetation while cities are growing. So fewer possibilities for the water to run off in a controlled way.
With our network of weather stations, severe weather can be better and earlier located, because warnings can be adjusted to the strength according to measurements. More accurate warnings can limit the potential damage and avoid serious injuries or casualties.”
In January 2007 one of the biggest storms since the start of Unwetterzentrale was the storm “Kyrill”. Pre-warnings were in place 36 hours beforehand. An animation of these warnings can be seen here: http://www.unwetterzentrale.de/uwz/356.html.
Looking forward to the next great 15 years!
For more info, check your local Unwetterzentrale:
Using our own special analysis of radar images and lightning data, supported by the data of many weather stations, we can now do warnings on geo-coordinates. This is unique!