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Culture

Weather For Sale

Stumped about what to give the person who has everything? Or just want to see your name on a weather map? A German meteorological institute has just the thing.

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Enjoy a spell of good weather with your name on it

If you listen to a few weather reports in Germany, you'll soon notice that, in addition to hurricanes, high and low pressure systems also have names. It's been that way since 1954, thanks to the Meteorological Institute at Berlin's Free University, which baptizes the weather systems.

But about two years ago, the cost-savings measures that have been felt across all of Germany threatened to hit the Meteorological Institute as well. A weather monitoring system that has been in operation since 1907 was faced with closure due to lack of funds.

Creative solution

That's when the institute's Thomas Dümmel had an idea: Just as people pay to adopt a highway or a dolphin, buy a plot on the moon or name a star, why not allow Germans to buy the right to name a high or low pressure system?

Stefan Lichius, a self-confessed weather freak from Cologne loved the idea, and immediately bought three names.

"I got the high pressure system Gabi, and the low pressure systems Hilde and Ingrid," Lichius said. "If I'm being totally honest, then really I bought them to help out the people in Berlin, because they were in financial difficulty and the weather monitoring program was going to be cancelled. But then I said to myself 'You need a birthday present for your sister, she's turning 40.' So I bought Gabi a high pressure system."

Dauerregen in Hannover

Low pressure systems frequently mean clouds and precipitation

The pressure systems don't come cheap. A "low" costs €199 ($240), while a "high" currently goes for €299. But then, high pressure systems are normally associated with good weather, and there are fewer of them -- about 55 per year as opposed to about 160 low pressure systems.

Short-lived fame

Those who opt for a weather system rather than a stretch of highway or moon plot also get a little more bang for their buck. In addition to the standard certificate, customers receive a full report of their weather system's activity, and the added kick of hearing their name announced in the weather report, or seeing their name written across the weather map in the newspaper, if only for a few days.

Pascal Simon definitely lucked out when he bought his wife Michaela a high pressure system for Christmas 2002: "Michaela" was responsible for one of Germany's hottest summer in memory and made headlines across the country. Of course, there are certain rules to abide by when naming your weather system. Only first names of common usage are allowed (no double names.) And the sex of the name has to be taken into consideration. This year, highs are male while lows are female. But to ensure fairness of price and equal responsibility for good and bad weather, next year, it'll be the other way around.

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