Reading Volker Popp is not very good at the "weather frogs". "We have no problem with the weather, but with the predictions, " complains the spa director of the Baltic resort Timmendorfer beach. Much too bad weather forecasts spoiled the hoteliers and restaurateurs in the resort the balance sheets, says Popp. The most recent example: during the 1997 season and at Easter 1998, the forecasts were far too negative. Thus, the meteorologists had announced rainy weather for the Easter holidays in northern Germany. For this reason, many potential holiday guests stayed home or headed south, Popp suspects. Above the Baltic coast, however, the sun shone in spite of the miserable predictions. The financial losses due to the absence of guests at Easter '98 alone on Timmendorfer beach estimates Volker Popp to six to seven million marks.

The German Weather Service wants to know nothing of the accusations of the coastal residents. Although the Baltic Sea islands of Rügen and Usedom had much longer hours of sunshine than any other German holiday region, press spokesman Uwe Wesp confirms that climate in Northeast Germany is the preferred option. That in the weather forecasts on such local features will not be received, but a false impression. "In the regional forecasts for northern Germany, a distinction is made between the weather on the coast and inland, " says Wesp. However, he admits, it can hardly be considered in the evening TV weather map for all of Germany because of the short airtime.

For Christian König, weatherman at the Munich radio station Antenne Bayern and head of the weather service company More and More Communications, the criticism of allegedly damaging mispredictions is excessive. "Of course, an alpine innkeeper does not like listening to us predicting snow down to 1000 meters on Thursday for the following weekend, so mountain hikers will not come, " says König. "And if such a prediction occasionally misses, then we meteorologists are the target of annoyance."

Perfect predictions will never happen, says King. Especially extreme weather events such as snow, hail or cloudbursts could rarely be predicted exactly for a location. For this very reason, emphasizes König, the meteorologists are obliged to be more on the warning side. "This is the only way to prevent even more people from perishing in the mountains because they are surprised by a sudden fall in the air." Ad

Anyone who wants to sue for financial losses caused by mispredictions hardly has a chance. After all, who can prove that a potential holiday guest chose a different destination because of a negative weather forecast? Because of the intangible connection, Munich Re, the world's largest reinsurer, has never bothered to assess the extent of economic losses caused by incorrect weather forecasts.

The only example, says the insurance company, was the severe hailstorm that swept across Munich on July 12, 1984. Fist-sized hailstones pelted homes, cars, and fields for nearly half an hour that evening, resulting in insurance losses of around 1.5 billion marks. There had been no timely warning of this century-old weather.

Even if the meteorologists often have to serve as scapegoats - the bottom line is their work a gain: every mark that is put into the German Weather Service, the economy benefits fourfold, calculates Gerhard Lux ​​of the DWD. Thanks to special forecasts, utilities could better plan their electricity needs, and beer gardens would be better able to plan their staff - at prices of less than 100 marks per month.

Conclusion: predicting the weather is difficult enough to make it all fair. In the future meteorologists should also help save lives and avoid damage by their work and should not be influenced by the economic interests of their customers.

=== Ralf Butscher

© science.de

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