Why specialist weather forecasts might just keep you out of trouble
The world of specialist weather forecasting has undergone significant improvements in recent years. Access to powerful supercomputers that process millions of lines of code, in conjunction with data from actual weather stations and live-feed sensors have accelerated observational capabilities and numerical weather prediction (NWP) models to near pin-point accuracy for short range meso-scale (hyper-localised) forecasting.
However, the operative word being short-range. The UK has the some of the most notoriously unpredictable weather on the planet, it’s one of the things that makes our local climate so unique and at the same time difficult to predict with any certainty. Read about our weather here..
Weather impacts business! Whether rain and flooding or snow and ice. This all has a direct correlation with either the cost of doing business and keeping facilities running safely, or an indirect cost with delays to supply chain and inoperability.
Financially businesses can protect themselves with weather insurance type instruments, a weather derivative-based product or even mutual agreements with supply chain partners with fixed price contracts to deliver a weather-related preventative service and who can also share some of the weather risk.
However, when it comes to the safety of people, slips and trips on ice there is a wider duty of care where access to available accurate forecasts can prevent a major accident and keep you out of serious trouble.
Specialist weather forecasts
It’s worth noting that not all forecasts are suited for specific weather events. A general or regional weather update which is publicly available is great for ambient air temperature or whether to pack an umbrella but for any mission critical decisions or keeping your complex supply chains safe and operational, a general weather forecast simply won’t cut it.
Road surface temperature forecasting
Road surface temperature (RST) in the context of winter weather forecasting is a crucial specialist parameter for forecasting the risk of winter weather hazards, such as black ice and snow-covered roads. RST can be measured directly using road weather information systems (RWIS) stations, or it can be estimated using numerical weather prediction models and is effectively how atmospheric processes and radiation impact surface temperature changes of the road and its surface condition. Simply that it is wet or dry and likelihood of freezing.
RST is vital for winter weather forecasting because it determines whether or not the rain will actually freeze on roads, bridges, footpaths and car parks. When RST is below freezing, rain can freeze and create hazards. RST is therefore important for forecasting the effectiveness of preventive winter gritting, prior to freezing and snow clearance.
NWP models forecast RST by calculating the transfer of heat between the surface and the atmosphere. This is a complex process that is influenced by a number of factors, including air temperature, wind speed, cloud cover, and road type. RST forecasts are a specialist forecast used by designated stakeholders, which require a more accurate winter forecast than the main. For example:
Transportation agencies: Transportation agencies use RST winter weather forecasts to plan and execute winter road maintenance operations, such as salting and ploughing roads. More accurate and timely forecasts allow transportation agencies to be more efficient and effective in their efforts to keep roads safe during winter weather.
Emergency services: Emergency services use RST winter weather forecasts to identify areas at risk of hazardous driving conditions and to plan their response to winter weather events. More accurate and timely forecasts allow emergency responders to be better prepared to respond to emergencies and to help keep people safe.
OUTCO Winter Maintenance
Having an accurate forecast is one thing, the next step is what to do with it. For example defending an ice related slip and trip claim, in many cases years after the weather event, you are going to have to demonstrate, both having access to the accurate information but also fully evidencing how you mitigated risk at the time.
Our specialist teams are all advanced forecast trained and our short range road surface temperature forecasts have been running at more than 98% accuracy for the past year.
Please get in touch if you would like to find out more…
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With over two decades of expertise in winter gritting, OUTCO’s operational team has more experience than any other winter services provider in the UK