Germany-Wide Rainfall Measurements by Utilizing the Mobile Network


Rainfall maps with high temporal resolution derived from the attenuation of commercial microwave links (CMLs) by precipitation.

Whether in flood early-warning systems or in agriculture – rainfall measurements are of great importance. However, there is a lack of accurate data for many regions in the world due to the fact that comprehensive measurements have so far been too expensive. This could change with a new method that has just passed its practical test. Researchers at KIT (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology) and the University of Augsburg have succeeded in utilizing the commercial microwave link network (CML) operated by mobile network providers for Germany-wide rainfall measurements. This new technology is now planned to be used in West Africa. The team published their results in the scientific journals Hydrology and Earth System Sciences and Atmospheric Measurement Techniques.

Rain can significantly impair the performance of a mobile network. But a phenomenon that can cause headaches for telecommunications companies is a stroke of luck for meteorological research: “We have developed a completely new method for rain measurement from this interaction between weather events and human technology,” says Professor Harald Kunstmann from the Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research – Atmospheric Environmental Research (IMK-IFU), the so-called Campus Alpin of KIT. “If a commercial microwave link network (CML) is in place, we neither need a new infrastructure nor additional ground staff.” Together with scientists from the University of Augsburg, his KIT team now succeeded in performing the first Germany-wide rainfall measurement with the new method: They were able to derive rainfall maps with high temporal resolution based on the attenuation of the CMLs between several thousand of mobile phone masts that is caused by precipitation.

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