85th AMS Annual Meeting

Tuesday, 11 January 2005: 11:45 AM
A field research test facility for long-term RWIS-ESS Validation
Leon F. Osborne Jr., Surface Transportation Weather Research Center, Grand Forks, ND; and J. Hanson, J. L. Horner, and R. Hart
For the past three decades the central data platform supporting decision making within surface transportation has been the Road Weather Information System-Environmental Sensor Station (RWIS-ESS). As national interest continues to grow on how to effectively incorporate the RWIS-ESS into mainstream data repositories for use in general public weather forecasting and enhanced support for surface transportation specific weather forecasting, concerns persist as to the effectiveness of these observation systems in providing valid and appropriate pavement and roadway weather information. While atmospheric sensors presently in general use within the operational weather community, such as those found at airports, have been rigorously researched and evaluated for their siting and operational effectiveness, similar long-term research into pavement and roadway weather sensing has not received similar attention. This lack of in-depth independent study and evaluation is the result of the RWIS-ESS evolution outside of a federally coordinated system and its historical use primarily to support a narrow, non-meteorological end user emphasis. While efforts are presently underway by various organizations to perform calibration and validation studies of selected components of RWIS-ESS, they fail to provide for any long-term field evaluation and attempt to address the problem through limited trials. Further, these tests fail to provide the framework for incorporation of RWIS-ESS data validation within an applied weather and road condition environment.

This paper describes an effort underway in North Dakota to establish a long-term independent research field test facility to evaluate the effectiveness of pavement and roadway weather condition monitoring. This test facility is a joint effort between the state, university and private sectors to determine the efficacy of existing and future RWIS-ESS data to provide support for research and operations. Located along and adjacent to Interstate 29 in eastern North Dakota, the field test site provides in situ field test resources to conduct sensor validation from multiple technologies during weather extremes. In addition, the field research site provides the capability to explore methods to validate forecast methods using RWIS-ESS. The paper describes how this field test facility is being used to validate pavement and roadway weather observation methods and subsequent forecasts made from these observations as part of evolving maintenance decision support methods currently being evaluated in North Dakota.

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