Press Release 166/2011

New Large Facility for Severe Weather Research

KIT Commissions KITcube
KITcube, ein mobiles High-Tech-Messfeld zur detaillierten Untersuchung von atmo-sphärischen Vorgängen.
KITcube, a mobile high-tech measurement field for the detailed investigation of atmospheric processes. (Photo: KIT)

Operation of the most modern measurement field in Europe for atmosphere research will start on November 15 at Hatzenbühl / Palatinate: Novel and established measurement instruments will directly pursue also extreme atmospheric situations, such as thunderstorms, strong rain, or winter storms. The results will improve weather forecasts and climate models. Representatives of the media are cordially invited to come to the opening of KITcube on November 15, 2011, 11.00 hrs.

KITcube measures the complete atmosphere in a cube of 10 km edge length at high resolution. High measuring poles of 30 m height, radars, lidars (a type of radar with light), and measurement instruments for atmospheric turbulence and all relevant meteorological parameters are integrated in the KITcube. “With funds from the Helmholtz Association and KIT, the most modern and largest total measurement system for the atmosphere all over Europe has been built,” rejoices Professor Dr. Christoph Kottmeier, Head of the Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research (IMK) of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.  

However, KITcube is more than the compilation of various measurement instruments. “For the first time, all instruments are controlled by a central computer and the measurements are evaluated continuously,” emphasizes Dr. Norbert Kalthoff, project coordinator at IMK. “For example, we can pursue thunderstorms on their way towards us.” The data are manifold and arise in large amounts: Radiation, wind, turbulence, atmospheric composition, pressure, temperature, and aerosols are measured. The scientists attach great value to parameters that have been neglected so far, such as the composition and movement of smallest particles (dust, pollen, or carbon black) or of cloud and rain droplets. 

For the development of the sophisticated control and evaluation program, IMK was supported by the KIT Institute of Data Processing and Electronics (IPE). The software integrates complex measurement instruments of various manufacturers in the measurement flows and processes the large amounts of data. “Atmosphere research is high-tech research,” emphasizes Professor Dr. Marc Weber, Head of IPE. “The measurement expenditure is enormous, if we do not only want to observe the processes, but to understand them.”

KITcube is also used to study those processes in more detail, which are not covered by other observation networks. Among them are so-called convective systems, for example showers and thunderstorms with all their hazardous side effects like downslope winds, shear zones, roll clouds, strong precipitations, and hailstorms. Interest also focuses on wind fields of winter storms, such as “Lothar” and “Kyrill”. “It is not the mean wind speed that causes the damage, but the embedded gusts,” explains Christoph Kottmeier, “and their intensity cannot yet be predicted, because we do not even know how they form.”

Due to its installation on trucks and in standard containers, KITcube can be transported easily. Presently, the complete facility is being tested for the first time at Hatzenbühl (district of Germersheim / Palatinate) before it will be brought to Corsica in 2012. There, KITcube will be applied for one year in an international large-scale project (HyMeX) to study the water cycle in the western Mediterranean. IMK has already received so many requests for the use of KITcube during various atmosphere research campaigns in other countries that it will not be able to comply with them all.


Being “The Research University in the Helmholtz Association”, KIT creates and imparts knowledge for the society and the environment. It is the objective to make significant contributions to the global challenges in the fields of energy, mobility, and information. For this, about 9,600 employees cooperate in a broad range of disciplines in natural sciences, engineering sciences, economics, and the humanities and social sciences. KIT prepares its 23,300 students for responsible tasks in society, industry, and science by offering research-based study programs. Innovation efforts at KIT build a bridge between important scientific findings and their application for the benefit of society, economic prosperity, and the preservation of our natural basis of life. KIT is one of the German universities of excellence.

jh, 09.11.2011


Monika Landgraf
Head of Corporate Communications, Chief Press Officer
Phone: +49 721 608-41150
Fax: +49 721 608-43658
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Contact for this press release:

Inge Arnold
Presse, Kommunikation und Marketing (PKM)
Phone: +49 721 608-22861
Fax: +49 721 608-25080
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