Friday, September 12, 2008

ETH Radar Station: A dieu

I received a sad email this week. The ETH weather radar will be taken off line this fall to make room for some sort of guest house. It's hard for me to judge the importance of this radar station to the ETH, its students and faculty. I'm sure it was substantial.

As an example of a valuable public service, it ranks up with there with the time table information of the SBB or ZVV. provides free, up-to-date weather radar for most of Switzerland, in a form that is quick and easy to access either from a browser or an internet capable handy. The delay is negligible and the service is free.

As I pilot, I have used it to make pre-flight decisions about whether it is safe to take off. As a hiker in the Swiss alps I have used it to make decisions about whether to seek shelter, continue the picnic or attempt to descend the slopes. Living in a 120 year old building with leaky windows, I use it to decide whether to batton down the hatches when a storm is approaching.

Yes, the Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology, otherwise known as MeteoSwiss, will provide this information for a fee or with a 30 minute delay, but an ETH spin off did it without delay and for free. 

According the this announcement, they hope that the web site will continue to be active using data from MeteoSwiss. I can't help but believe that MeteoSwiss will be happy to see this service go, or become a fee-based service, kind of like the way all DSL providers have to buy their service from Swisscom. 

I hope Dr. Willi Schmid and his team at and find a new location for the radar station. Although I never met the station personally, I will be there at the "Going Away" party, to pay my respects.