Open Air St Gallen 2


Summer Festivals 2023

Facing Weather Challenges With Meteomatics

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Thomas Eldridge

The peak summer season in Switzerland often comes with weather-related challenges. In the summer of 2023, Meteomatics’ meteorologists provided round the clock care for two of east Switzerland’s most happening festivals, the OpenAir St. Gallen and the SummerDays festival in Arbon. In this article, you’ll learn how our experienced meteorologists were instrumental in safeguarding the success of SummerDays.

Switzerland is a country famous for its varied cheeses and chocolates, beautiful countryside and long working hours. But what is perhaps less well known about these inexorable workaholics is that they do also, within moderation, like to have fun. When summer comes to Switzerland it’s finally time to let down your hair and head to one of the many open airs and festivals to enjoy live music in the midst of the bucolic idyll.

For some at Meteomatics, however, the work never stops. The peak summer season in Switzerland often comes with weather-related challenges. In the best case, the skies remain cloud-free, but high temperatures and constant sunshine can still be a cause for concern, with heatstroke and sunburn a prevalent possibility for festival goers; at the other end of the spectrum, the mountainous terrain of Switzerland facilitates the generation of dramatic thunderstorms, particularly after prolonged periods of fine weather, and these events can quickly turn a field into a swamp, blow over tents and cause stages to erupt in a shower of lightning-infused sparks. All of this makes plenty of work for our meteorologists, who this summer provided round the clock care for two of east Switzerland’s most happening parties.

OpenAir St Gallen

Every year in early July St Gallen plays host to one of Switzerland’s biggest music festivals. As a weather company proud to call that same town our home, it only makes sense that Meteomatics should partner with OpenAir St Gallen to provide weather forecasts in the lead up to and during the event.

This year a team of four expert meteorologists made the campground their home for the weekend. Operating in shifts to provide round the clock coverage, our team kept their eye on the horizon, looking for ominous clouds.

Fortunately, with the exception of the by now traditional soaking wet first day of the OpenAir, the weather remained fine for the whole weekend. Of course, this is precisely the kind of situation we hope for when monitoring an outdoor event. However, conditions are not always nearly so ideal…

SummerDays Festival

Based on the success of our partnership with the OpenAir St Gallen, our meteorologists also provided coverage for the SummerDays festival in Arbon in August. Unfortunately, the weather during this period was considerably less ideal than that at the OpenAir. Our forecasters – this time sat some distance removed from the festival site – first saw a storm brewing in our weather models at 7pm. Several forecasts predicted wind speeds in excess of the 70 km/h threshold set by the festival above which, due to the danger posed by flying objects and toppling tents, a safe festival experience could no longer be guaranteed.

The situation was tense. Weather models often disagree, particularly when violent, intense weather is concerned; however, it’s impossible to say until after the event which models most accurately reflect reality. At this point, it was uncertain if the festival could safely continue.

Bildschirmfoto 2023 09 19 um 14 48 13 1

MetX dashboard showing: lifted index (upper left); CAPE (upper right); CIN (lower left); and precipitation and lightning strikes (lower right). Lifted index, CAPE and CIN are useful parameters for describing atmospheric instability, which is a requirement for the formation of the thunderstorms shown in the bottom right.

“It’s hard to know what might have been the outcome if we hadn’t been on hand to provide guidance,” said Marco Thaler, a senior meteorologist at Meteomatics. “If you were just looking at the model data, you might have evacuated the site, just to be on the safe side. We sent a message to the festival organizers and within a few minutes were on the phone discussing how to proceed”.

Fortunately Marco and his team have a lot of experience comparing model output. Choosing not to rely exclusively on simulated data, the Meteomaticians looked at reports from real weather stations in the vicinity of the event. Although sustained wind speeds were certainly moderately strong, the infrastructure was rated to withstand those conditions.

The real clincher for Marco’s team was the absence of strong wind gusts This led the team to believe that the models were predicting mean wind speeds significantly higher than what was actually being observed. They communicated this to the festival organizers, and narrowly avoided an unnecessary closure.

“The ability to quickly access data from multiple sources is one of the key selling points of a weather API like ours,” says Marco. “Rather than considering just a single model or data source, we can compare models with each other, and with observations, all within a few minutes thanks to the single end-point of our API. We’re then able to make decisions in time-sensitive scenarios, keeping everybody safe and avoiding costly mistakes.”

Marco Thaler - Meteorologist
Marco Thaler
Rather than considering just a single model or data source, we can compare models with each other and with observations. This can all be done within a few minutes, thanks to the single end-point of our API. We can then make decisions in time-sensitive scenarios, keeping everybody safe and avoiding costly mistakes.

Plans for the Future

Of course, with the exception of the perpetually wet first day of the OpenAir St Gallen, weather forecasts are difficult to produce more than a few days in advance. Luckily, our team will again be on hand to provide coverage for the OpenAir next year.

For those of you who would also like to better predict your own outdoor events, you can test out our API with a free trial, and see for yourself the power of a single end-point solution for multiple weather data sources.

Get in Touch!

Meteomatics is always happy to consider lending out our experts for large scale events that need some expert forecasters on hand.

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Thomas Eldridge

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