Meteorologists have donors to thank
Weather is interesting to the laymen, researchers, inventors and industry alike. Radar meteorologists in Helsinki have something to offer each of these groups – even NASA.

According to Dmitri Moisseev, assistant professor of radar meteorology, it is rare to see industrial, academic and public service organisations work in such close cooperation as in the community of weather specialists on the Kumpula Campus.

“That’s exactly what made me apply for work in Helsinki, even though I previously worked at Colorado State University, which is the leading university in my field.”

Moisseev is referring to the radar meteorology cooperation between the University of Helsinki, Vaisala and the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

“Vaisala is one of the top developers and manufacturers of meteorological instruments in the world. Vaisala provided significant support to the University of Helsinki to establish our radar meteorology group, which carries out strong basic research. The Finnish Meteorological Institute does conduct basic research, but as a national service institution, it also provides weather applications to the people,” Moisseev explains.

He points out that the accuracy of weather forecasts depends heavily on how developed the mathematical models of weather phenomena and their changes are.

“We don't yet understand the details of the physics involved in snow, rain or clouds very well. Basic research into the atmosphere and climate is very important. It is only through modelling that we can better deduce what will happen if something in the system changes."

Everybody wins

The cooperation between the three sectors began more than a decade ago, when Vaisala launched a new weather radar project. They wanted to recruit solid academic competence for the project, and placed the first prototype of this weather radar on the roof of the Physicum building on the Kumpula Campus.

Moisseev and his group still use that radar, and the “golf ball” perched upon the rooftops has become a landmark of the Campus, and of Kumpula in general.

The same ball – with some updates – is also used by the Finnish Meteorological Institute, which had its own radars built by Vaisala.

Students and researchers have state-of-the-art equipment at their disposal – and again the synergy wheel turns!

“Vaisala receives important feedback from researchers about how its instruments should work. They are in direct contact with the research group, which continuously uses and tests their new devices and system updates. We researchers develop the devices on our end and help Vaisala produce new applications,” Moisseev explains.

“Academic research directly benefits the public, as Vaisala develops applications based on researchers’ discoveries. Meanwhile, the University strengthens its expertise in the field thanks to Vaisala, as students and researchers benefit from working with state-of-the-art equipment. And again the synergy wheel turns.”

“As the University generates ever more competence, Vaisala can recruit new, top-quality employees from among our researchers.”

NASA shows interest

Some of the funding for Moisseev’s assistant professorship is from profits generated by donations into the University’s basic capital. The Future Fund, accrued in 2010–2012, supports projects of particular importance to the University. Moisseev’s position has a clear mission: to elevate the research in radar meteorology at the University to the European top of its field. “This is possible thanks to our unique organisation triumvirate”.

“We also have close connections to Colorado, and the cooperation has been a strategically brilliant decision. It has rapidly generated positive, international attention for Kumpula. We also received Professor Venkatachalam Chandrasekarin from Colorado for a four-year FiDiPro professorship to work at the University and the Finnish Meteorological Institute, partially on funding from Vaisala.”

“Thanks to our strong research group, NASA has during the past few years funded terrestrial measurements in Finland for satellite comparison.”

Giving Day

Wednesday 22 April is the University of Helsinki's first Giving Day and the celebration of University of Helsinki Funds. During this day, the University invites its community and partners to discuss and spread the word about the importance of donated funds to science, research and students.

The event will be organised on the campuses and online, and funds raised will be allocated to the University of Helsinki’s 375 Future Fund. Join us and make a gift!

Read more: Slicing clouds for weather research (2012)

The University of Helsinki’s 375 Future Fund