7.2 Delivering surface transportation weather information: Borrowing from aviation weather experience

Wednesday, 12 January 2000: 2:30 PM
Gary G. Nelson, Mitretek Systems, Inc., Washington, DC; and R. A. Wagoner

Surface transportation is a rich market for tailored weather information translated into surface right-of-way and vehicle-operating conditions. Surface transportation costs of weather in maintenance ($2 billion per year in the U.S. for highways) fatalties (about 7,000 per year on highways in adverse weather) and loss of mobility (easily $10 billion for a single blizzard) far outweigh those for any other mode. Yet coordination with the National Weather Service and the delivery of mode-specific weather information is far more advanced for aviation and maritime transportation than for the surface modes. Part of the reason is that individual aircraft and ships are more vulnerable to severe weather. In surface transportation weather is a less distinct contributory factor, but nonetheless one where the aggregate effects of better information for operators and travelers can be substantial. Air carriers and their corresponding federal airspace operator, the Federal Aviation Administration are more centralized and can better focus interdepartmental cooperation. Since the NWS is primarily concerned with atmospheric prediction, and aviation operates in the atmosphere, there are clear mutual interests even though the surface environment is also vital to aviation at each terminus. One result of these factors is a number of joint FAA-NWS programs, including FAA-NWS operation of the Center Weather Service Units (CWSU) and generation of special aviation forecast products by the National Centers for Environmental Prediction. The issue addressed here is how much surface transportation can borrow from the organization and activities in aviation weather. Areas of focus include cooperative surface observation, joint research on detection and forecasting of atmospheric phenomena that affect the surface(precipitation, boundary-layer visibility, surface forcing, orographic effects), and the CWSU model applied to surface transportation.

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