Why winter weather could demand less salt for gritting roads in future

                   NAVTEQ road mapping from MapMechanics supports Met Office’s route-based forecasting

February 16, 2009 - When low temperatures or other adverse weather conditions pose the risk of icy roads, responsible authorities in the future should be able to determine much more accurately which sections of road will need gritting.

As a result, they should be able to target their gritting resources more accurately – providing a more responsive service, saving costs, and limiting the environment impact of gritting to those locations where it is most needed.

These are among the many benefits in prospect from a new route-based weather forecasting system being trialled by the Met Office, in which a key component is NAVTEQ street-level digital mapping supplied by MapMechanics.

Met Office road business manager Aileen Semple explains: “Our new system takes advantage of high-resolution modelling and considers factors such as topography and the presence of buildings. For this we required very precise road mapping, and NAVTEQ street-level data from MapMechanics provides this.”

The new system is set to become part of the Met Office’s OpenRoad product. This is a long-established service under which organisations such as local authorities and agencies across the UK can gain access to weather forecasting information in order to plan road gritting and similar activities.

For many years the Met Office has provided specialist weather forecasts and advice to local authorities and trunk road operators responsible for winter road maintenance. Accurately forecasting road surface temperature and wintry conditions helps road engineers to plan when to salt the roads, which prevents ice forming, or deploy ploughs to clear snow.

Traditionally these forecasts have been for an area or region which may contain many routes. Thanks to world-renowned scientific expertise and ongoing investment in supercomputing power, the Met Office can lay claim to being uniquely positioned to carry out innovative research and develop the next generation of detailed road weather forecasts along each individual route.

Under the new system, unique numerical weather prediction models break the country down into 4km grid squares, and the NAVTEQ data is used to determine which roads are affected within them.

Taking advantage of this precision, the new system brings a much more visual element to the forecasting. Routes can be colour-coded by sector, so that it is possible to see at a glance not just which roads might be prone to icing on a given night, but also which stretches of those roads are most vulnerable. An enhanced on-screen interface for the system has also been developed, so users can toggle overlays for cloud cover on and off.

“The whole objective is to give users maximum confidence in the prediction,” adds former weather forecaster Aileen Semple.

The NAVTEQ street-level data from MapMechanics has been a key element in the project, she says. “We don’t just consider the temperature in a given region, but also factors such as the road surface temperature, the road construction and traffic flow. And we need to relate all this exactly to the line of the roads, which means we rely on precise, high-resolution road network data, which the NAVTEQ data provides.”

The aim in the longer term is to make it possible for road authorities to limit their gritting to stretches of road that can be shown to be definitely in need of it, and to consider holding back from gritting on other stretches.

Aileen Semple says: “We are constantly looking for ways to help our customers improve the safe and efficient running of the UK road network, and our route trials this winter could represent a big step forward for the future of road weather forecasting.’’

Image available at: http://www.mapmechanics.com/mapmechanicspressroom/press_metoffice_2009.htm

About MapMechanics

MapMechanics has been providing innovative solutions in sales and marketing, logistics planning, digital mapping and geographic analysis for twenty years.

MapMechanics uses digital map-based technologies to offer an extensive range of Web, desktop, paper and component solutions for a variety of business applications, from atlas production to business analysis, site selection, customer profiling and vehicle routing and scheduling.

MapMechanics distributes a wide range of data products including AA, NAVTEQ and Ordnance Survey digital mapping, as well as leading business and demographic datasets from many sources throughout the world. This data is listed in the Data Catalogue, which is probably the most extensive and up-to-date printed listing of its kind in Britain. It is published at least once a year, and is also available on the Internet.

MapMechanics is a major supplier of software solutions. It is the UK distributor of the GeoConcept geographic information system, which is used extensively in a diverse range of fields such as retail planning, marketing, healthcare, environmental planning and management, transport and logistics, site selection, network planning and territory allocation, telematics and command and control applications, policing and broadcasting, and central and local government.

MapMechanics also supplies and supports MicroAnalytics’ TruckStops and OptiSite in Britain. TruckStops is the world’s most widely-deployed routing and scheduling solution, and is in use in North and South America, Britain, continental Europe and elsewhere. OptiSite is an established and widely-deployed network modelling tool. Backing up its extensive product range, MapMechanics offers a comprehensive service of implementation support and training.


Katy McKenna

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Brentford, London, TW8 8JA
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Website: http://www.mapmechanics.com

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