7.7 Challenges and opportunities for using weather information to support transportation

Wednesday, 12 January 2000: 4:15 PM
Michael A. Rossetti, Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, Cambridge, MA; and Thomas A Seliga, Volpe National Transportation System Center, Cambridge, MA and Basav Sen, Volpe National Transportation System Center, Cambridge, MA

During the past three years, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Volpe National Transportation System Center (Volpe Center) has hosted three national forums on weather and transportation. These were conducted under the Federal Transportation Science and Technology Strategy of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) through the Enhanced Transportation Weather Services initiative. The forums brought together many experts from the public and private sectors, with the goal of developing partnerships that would capitalize on recent advances in meteorology and transportation. On the weather side, we now have advanced remote observational sensing capabilities such as NEXRAD and weather satellites. These are supplemented by continuously improving forecasting capabilities, deriving from greater understanding of the physics of storm behavior, advances in numerical methods, use of supercomputers and access to observations and numerical forecasts results through AWIPS and the Internet. Together these can provide fine-grid weather information, near or at the required spatial and temporal resolutions required for transportation decision making. On the transportation side, a number of advanced transportation information technologies have emerged. Notable examples include a vast variety of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) in the surface transportation area and the Integrated Terminal Weather Services (ITWS) system in the aviation sector. The latter system is an example of an opportunity where a system developed to serve one transportation sector can provide critical weather information to other transportation users for important operational decision-making. More intelligent use of weather information can translate into gains in safety, efficiency, mobility, resource allocation, and disaster mitigation for the entire transportation system. Simultaneously, the transportation sector has demonstrated potential for further improving numerical models and forecasts through the collection of weather data on board vehicles or by stationary points along roads, railways, and waterways. A crosscutting objective throughout the Volpe Center/NSTC initiative has been to leverage existing weather technologies for the benefit of the entire transportation system.

This paper reviews the findings of the Volpe Center’s activities in this area and outlines a set of objectives deserving of national consideration for implementation during the first decade of the millennium. These projects range from improving our understanding of weather-transportation relationships, to the generation, maintenance and dissemination of national weather information systems tailored for all modes of transportation, to improving and implementing local nowcasting services for surface modes, to developing regional mesonets to simultaneously serve both transportation and weather service constituencies.

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