A cold, wet wind is blowing from the North Sea and it’s drizzling. Yet the rain cannot make you overlook one of Bremerhaven’s main attractions: the building rises out of the historical harbour grounds like an enormous dinghy made of glass and metal. It’s Klimahaus Bremerhaven 8 Grad Ost, an exciting new hands-on museum. The rain takes on a totally different meaning here – after all, the science centre aims to explain the links between weather and climate.
On 11,500 square metres of exhibition space, visitors can learn everything about storms and volcanic eruptions, wind and ocean currents and the physics of weather and climate – playfully and at their leisure. Klimahaus Bremerhaven is a very special kind of museum with exhibits that encourage experimentation and objects that are meant to be touched. As a blend of aquarium, technology museum and do-it-yourself show, the Klimahaus aims to both educate and entertain. The special feature of a tour of the museum is that visitors can experience the Earth’s different climate zones first-hand with heat, cold and humidity part of a virtual world tour.
In the space of a few hours you are taken around our entire planet. The journey begins and ends in Bremerhaven, 8 degrees 34 East, 53 degrees 32 North. Visitors wander through different countries and regions along the eighth degree of longitude until they reach the Antarctic and then travel back up again on the other side of the globe. In a total of nine stages they follow the expedition team that visited places and people on behalf of the Klimahaus all over the world – for example, Isenthal in Switzerland, where glacier melt is already creating problems. They visit the municipality of Seneghe in summery warm Italy and roam the dry Kanak region of Niger in the Sahel where temperatures of over 30 degrees Celsius make the sweat pour and you can feel what a water shortage means.
Speaking in interviews and video sequences, the inhabitants of the different places explain how the climate determines their lives – thereby making the abstract facts tangible. And your own body speaks a very different language: in Cameroon you feel as though you are in a sauna with 80% humidity, while in the Antarctic, where hundreds of cooling coils have formed metre-high ice walls, you shiver as you breathe the biting cold into your lungs. And on Samoa, where the air is hot and humid and the clothes stick to your skin, you soon understand why the traditional houses had no walls: even the slightest breeze then provides a little cool relief. “The journey makes impressively clear how human life on our planet is influenced by the climate and what changes face us,” is how Arne Dunker, manager of the science centre, explains the idea behind the museum.
The Klimahaus is a crowd puller: more than one million people had already visited the exhibition 15 months after it opened in June 2009. The museum is also receiving national and international recognition: the United Nations has designated it a project for its Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. It is not by chance that this hands-on museum opened its doors in Bremerhaven. “Here on the North Sea coast you can experience climate phenomena particularly impressively,” says Arne Dunker. “Additionally, the weather from all climate zones is felt here.”
Another advantage of the location was its proximity to the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) in Bremerhaven. Competent advice was provided by top German researchers to ensure that not only the show was good, but the facts too. Climate researchers and meteorologists were involved at the development stage. Scientists thought up experiments, designed exhibits and proofread the museum texts. Additionally, help was provided by experts from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), the German Weather Service (DWD) and the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg.
This collaboration between educationalists at the museum and researchers is to continue in the future. Not only is the climate changing, but Klimahaus Bremerhaven also wants to develop – and improve awareness of climate change with educational projects, touring exhibitions and conferences.