How it's made: The Straightforward Guide to Road & Route Models

How It’s Made is your 20-part series, exploring all the categories that come together to make your weather forecast. In this series, we don’t just tell you that our weather forecasts are accurate; we show you how it’s done.

Today we’re continuing our exploration of Category Three: Statistical Post Processing, with this post on Road & Route models.

 

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During winter road maintenance, operations staff are under pressure to guarantee traffic safety, while maximizing operational efficiency. Treating roads too late can lead to accidents, traffic jams, and potential fatalities. However, unnecessary treatment of roads can result in high costs and avoidable environmental damage.

 

What are the Road & Routes Models?

 

Road & Route models are used to identify situations where the weather poses a risk on the roads, including supporting gritting decisions and, increasingly, supporting autonomous vehicle initiatives. They have been specifically designed by the weather experts to address these challenges. Here’s how the two models work:

  • The road surface model combines a physical and statistical model, designed to calculate the forecast for road surface temperature and conditions at specific locations, such as Road weather information system (RWIS) locations and downscaled locations (i.e. ‘on-the-spot’ forecasts).
  • The route based forecast model is a physical model, designed to calculate forecasts for road surface temperatures and conditions for predefined gritting networks (or routes).

 

Both models draw on data from MeteoBase, which contains manually controlled output from the MOS forecast system.

 

How the experts add value to Road & Route Models?

 

For the road surface model, the experts use statistical modelling to improve the physical model data with 3 years of historical observations. This enables the road surface model to take into account the local environment of an RWIS station. This improves the model’s accuracy. They also run a bias filter that looks at the past 21 days to identify any inconsistencies.

 

For the route forecast model, they apply scaling to the physical model to improve the quality; for example, by adding information about the temperature and condition at RWIS sites.

 

" Our road and route models are build and fine-tuned based on years of experience in working for the road weather industry "

- Marcel Wokke
Meteorological Researcher
MeteoGroup

 

 

How the Road & Route Models are used today?

 

These forecasts are monitored and improved by meteorologists to ensure accuracy and quality and then visually presented through a web portal. It provides road safety managers the information needed to make informed decisions on gritting, using hyperlocal data on road surface temperature, black ice, hoar frost, snowfall, and freezing rain. These forecasts are monitored and improved by meteorologists to ensure accuracy and quality.

This information helps organizations in charge of road maintenance to know when and where action is needed, including the type and amount of chemicals to use and whether snow plows are required.

Through this insight, they can minimize gritting costs and environmental impact, by avoiding unnecessary treatments and using the weather forecast to know the right amount of salt and chemicals to use.

As well, the models can help to plan resources and improve operations, by using the road weather forecasts to plan for personnel, chemicals, and maintenance of equipment.

 

 

Using Road & Route Models to Power Autonomous Driving

 

Road & Route models are not just used for road maintenance; they’re also critical for the automotive industry and, in particular, the drive towards autonomous vehicles.

The weather experts are working closely with some of the world’s most prestigious car brands to come up with in-car systems that will enable autonomous vehicles to anticipate and handle even the most severe and most rapidly-changing road conditions.

It’s a fast-growing market and MeteoGroup is participating proudly in developing the autonomous driving solutions that will power tomorrow’s cars.

Some car manufacturers are already delivering systems to help drivers navigate away from rain and hail and towards blue skies and sunshine if the driver decides to follow the directions. But in the future, autonomous vehicles will rely fully on detailed, accurate, and real-time road and weather information to ensure safety.


 

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Our road and route models are build and fine-tuned based on years of experience in working for the road weather industry


Marcel Wokke
Meteorological researcher
MeteoGroup