4b.6 Snowfall observations in support of reconciling snow removal contracts

Tuesday, 19 July 2011: 9:45 AM
Salon C2 (Asheville Renaissance)
Mathieu R. Gerbush, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ; and D. A. Robinson

In most every winter, snow removal is a multi-million dollar business in New Jersey. Those involved in clearing public roads are most often paid on an hourly basis. However, plowing of private roads, driveways and parking lots is usually accomplished by contractors who charge in inch to multi-inch increments for each snowfall event. One can imagine that disputes over just how much snow fell can occur between the contractor and those being plowed. The services of the Office of the New Jersey State Climatologist (ONJSC) are frequently sought by one party or the other to assist in resolving such cases. To best respond to such requests, we compile event snowfall totals and post them on our website (http://climate.rutgers.edu/stateclim (look for "Winter 2010-2011 Snow Event Totals" page on this website to find event totals for this past winter and the previous eight)). In recent years, contractors have begun to rely on data posted by the ONJSC as they do their billing, thus likely avoiding most disputes between the contractor and customer. It is fair to say that the ONJSC has become the impartial arbiter of millions of dollars of snow removal contracts.

Totals are posted in tabular form by county for events where at least one report of two or more inches (5.1 cm) of snow is received. Maps have been generated for notable events during recent seasons. They not only depict the distribution of snowfall but also assist in the assessment of the quality of reported observations. The latter is part of a careful evaluation that often results in a small portion of the observations being discarded. A key to successful assessment is the quantity of observations. Major storms often generate approximately 200 reports, thus suspicious observations become quite evident over the New Jersey landscape.

The vast majority of snowfall reports are submitted by volunteer observers. These citizen scientists most often have had training as National Weather Service (NWS) SKYWARN Spotters or NJ Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network participants. Some NWS Cooperative Weather Observer reports are also included. We inform potential data users that while the reports may not be deemed “official” they represent “reasonable” observations of the event.

This presentation will outline the generation of event reports. Examples of the financial significance of eliminating inaccurate reports will be provided for contracts ranging from driveway plowing to townhouse communities to shopping malls.

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