Go Snow: embedding quality into everything we do

Early warning technology enables quicker, more effective preparation and response

Snow. Skiers and kids (big and small) love it, but it can cause havoc on the roads and nightmares for farmers and others involved in off-mountain outdoor activities. Accurate snow forecasts – where and how low it’s going to fall and how much will accumulate over what period – are crucial decision-making tools, whether you’re planning a trip to the slopes or wondering whether to move stock to shelter.

Storm type is a major influence on snowfall type. Beyond this, there are a lot of cloud physics behind forecasting of snowfall: the rate and nature of the precipitation; the near-ground distribution of temperature, moisture and wind flow; the nature of the ground surface itself; and so on. Before the onset of New Zealand’s winter in 2013, two meteorologists from MetService's Severe Weather Team refined the algorithms used by our weather modelling systems for the forecasting of snow, and trained colleagues in how to apply them.

At the end of June 2013 we saw large snowfalls to low levels over the east of the South Island of New Zealand. Our refined approach to snow forecasting enabled us to produce early and accurate forecasts that made a significant difference, particularly for farmers. They were able to prepare earlier, with plenty of time to move stock before snow fell, meaning stock losses and other negative impacts were minimised.

Bad weather affects everything of course, so it’s also critical to have early warning when it comes to aviation weather hazards – to assist that we have enhanced our forecasting with technology using enhanced satellite imagery and data.

A recently-installed polar orbiting satellite receiving dish has given us faster access to more satellite data than ever before. Combined with sharper identification tools and data from our own rain radars, this means better detection of airborne volcanic ash, improved detection of low cloud and fog, and more robust analysis of severe weather.

And when severe weather does strike, it’s vital emergency managers have the best possible information at their fingertips to prepare for and manage its effects. MetService has developed a new storm monitoring tool, now operational with Auckland Civil Defence, which uses data from rain radar and gauges to give near real-time visibility of rainfall impact across the region.

Being able to pinpoint where heavy rain is likely to fall, and how much has already fallen, enables emergency management resources to move early into places most likely to flood. With a level of detail and immediacy that’s a first for New Zealand, the tool has the potential to dramatically improve response efforts.

We believe every investment we make in technology, results in a better forecast for our customers.

For more information about solutions for planning around severe weather, click here to contact us.

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