Professor Lee Chapman

The Harry Otten Prize for Innovation in Meteorology has been awarded to Lee Chapman, Professor of Climate Resilience in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, for his idea of using low-cost sensors and the Internet of Things to advance weather forecasts.

The €25000 prize was awarded during the Annual Meeting of the European Meteorological Society currently taking place in Dublin, Ireland.

Lee Chapman’s idea, High-Resolution Monitoring of Weather Impacts on Infrastructure Networks, is to use the ‘internet of things’ and low-cost sensors to monitor the weather on a very dense network to improve short-range forecasting. Chapman provided one example where low-cost sensors connected to the internet could provide real-time information on the condition of roadways in winter to inform efficient applications of salt on road surfaces and at the same time avoiding wasteful oversalting of roads that are above freezing. In a second example, he showed how other sensors could detect leaf wetness on railways, which often cause train braking problems in autumn.

The Harry Otten Prize is awarded every two years. Overall the jury received 12 applications for the prize from different European countries and the USA. The other two finalists received €2500 for their ideas.

Richard Anthes, Chairman of the Board of the Harry Otten Foundation, commented “Lee Chapman’s idea of using many low-cost sensors, all connected to the internet to deliver immediate observations of weather and weather impacts such as road conditions, has the potential to substantially increase our ability to know when and where hazardous conditions exist and increase users’ confidence in using these forecasts in critical weather situations.”

Harry Otten was pleased at the announcement of the 2017 winner of the Prize: “After a number of years of retirement, I have started Wettermanufaktur as a new weather business in Berlin. The first customers for the company are the authorities responsible for sanding and salting the roads. The idea of Lee Chapman to use low-cost sensors to measure the road conditions could be very valuable in providing better services to our customers.”

About Harry Otten and the Harry Otten Foundation

Harry Otten has been active in meteorology for more than 40 years, 25 years of which he served as founder and director of Meteo Consult (now: MeteoGroup). In those 25 years the company grew from 5 starters to more than 270 people in more than 10 countries, making it the largest private weather companies in Europe and one of the leading weather companies in the world. Harry sold his company between 2005 and 2011 and wanted to express his gratitude to the meteorological community by creating a fund that is used to reward innovative ideas in meteorology.