Swiss university offers prizes to those who find the biggest hailstones

Swiss university offers prizes to those who find the biggest hailstones

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Laboratory for Natural Hazards opening at the University of Bern, scientists in the de-facto capital have called on people to submit photos of hailstones. Cloud chasers who find the biggest balls of ice have a chance to win a luxury weekend away, meals and chocolate.

Wanted: the largest hailstone in Switzerland

In Switzerland, the weather has a habit of being predictable, especially during the summer when multiple hot days with no rain pile on top of each other, culminating in massive thunder and rainstorms that cool the country down so the cycle can start anew. In many areas, the updraft from these thunderstorms lifts water up into the freezing level of the atmosphere, before dropping back to earth in the form of hailstones.

Now, from June 5 to August 31, 2023, the University of Bern is running a competition to see who is able to find and take a picture of the largest hailstone in Switzerland. The university told 20 Minuten that not only will they use the competition to celebrate 10 years since their natural hazards lab opened, but the pictures submitted will help to further their research into the natural phenomenon. 

Hotel stays, fondue and chocolate offered as prizes

In order to be in with a chance of winning, the photo must come from a hail event that took place this summer. Applicants have to submit time and location data alongside the photo so that the find can be verified by MeteoSwiss. The picture must also include a "reference object" placed next to the hailstone (ruler, coin, golf ball, etc).

To sweeten the deal, the university will offer prizes to those who find the largest hailstones. First prize is an overnight stay at the Hotel Stella in Orselina, Canton Ticino, a place the competition page says is “ideal for observing the weather conditions over Lake Maggiore in summer and, with a little luck, for experiencing a heat storm with hail formation” - luxury. The second place prize is a fondue for two in a real igloo on the Engstligenalp, while those placed third to 10th will get a voucher for chocolate.

Hailstorms under-researched, say Swiss scientists

Private insurance provider and sponsor of the competition Mobiliar noted that hailstones still cause a significant amount of damage in Switzerland every year, mainly through denting cars and outdoor ornaments. Co-director Olivia Romppainen told 20 Minuten that hailstorms are also under-researched, especially in regard to their relationship with climate change. - i.e whether hailstones get bigger as average temperatures increase.

For the cloud chasers and hailstone hunters among us, Mobiliar recommended a trip to Canton Jura, the Napf region of the Swiss mountains in Canton Bern or the south of Ticino - the areas of Switzerland where hailstorms are most likely to occur. While it is unclear what size of hailstone will win, anything seven centimetres in diameter or larger has to be within a shout of taking the top prize.

You can enter the competition using the official website.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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