The impact of weather events on road users and transport agencies is a major focus for MetraWeather, the global commercial arm of MetService, New Zealand’s National Meteorological Service.
MetraWeather and MetService are exhibiting at the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) World Congress 2016 in Melbourne commencing on October 10th.
The ITS World Congress is the world's largest ITS-related international conference. Held annually in Europe, the Asia-Pacific region, and the Americas on a rotating basis, the Congress invites ITS developers (governments, research bodies, and commercial enterprises) from a wide range of countries and regions to showcase their latest ITS research findings and products through information sessions (including technical paper presentations), exhibitions, and test drives.
The 2016 Congress has attracted 7,000+ delegates from 60 countries along with well over 300 exhibitors, and provides a showcase for the latest advances and solutions in intelligent transportation systems. The Congress themes range from the challenges and opportunities of big open data to smart cities, autonomous vehicles, safety, sustainability, future freight, policy and standards and co-operative ITS.
This year, MetService has created several road-weather innovations in collaboration with the New Zealand Ministry of Transport, NZ Transport Agency and roading networks contractors, Downer Group, Fulton Hogan and Higgins.
Our innovation focus is to expand road weather decision support and recommendation engines for road users, the commercial transport sector, and the agencies and contractors charged with improving road safety, managing highways efficiently, and the incorporation of weather data into smarter cities’ programmes.
Weather can have major impacts upon:
- Road safety
The average social cost of a single fatal road crash in New Zealand is $4.54 million
(The Social Cost of Road Crashes and Injuries Report, Ministry of Transport)
The average social cost of a crash involving serious injuries is $473,600
24% of US crashes are weather-related [US Federal Highway Administration]
The majority of weather-related crashes happen on wet pavement and during rainfall. [US Federal Highway Administration]
The application of innovative science-based road weather technologies is enabling the impact of weather events to be mitigated. These technologies promise to provide the transport sector (including aviation, rail and ports operations) with data-driven insights that will increasingly lead to improvements in safety, mobility, productivity and profitability.
Weather events are not exclusively related to winter conditions.
- In warmer months, the build-up of contaminants can cause the road surface to become treacherous with rain, and high-temperatures can cause ‘bleeding’ and the breakdown of the road surface.
- High winds can impact aircraft landing, and make driving hazardous for cyclists and high-sided vehicles such as trailers and campervans. It can also bring down power supplies and trees.
- Heavy rain can cause slips, washouts and road closures, and flooded roads are the cause of many weather-related incidents over the spring and autumn months.
- Lightning can also be highly disruptive and the cause of forest fires and disruptions to transport infrastructure, energy and communications networks.
Accurate, site-specific forecasting aligned with communications networks can help alleviate disruptions and safeguard road users and transport operations.
Innovative weather solutions from MetService for road and transport operations
Leith Saddle in the South Island of New Zealand
Snow and ice have caused severe travel disruptions on the Leith Saddle, a vital link in New Zealand’s Dunedin Northern Motorway.
At the beginning of the 2016 winter snow season, MetService installed a solar-powered webcam and Automated Weather Station (AWS) on the Saddle to provide decision support to the NZ Transport Agency and contractor Downer Group.
The data and imagery provided is designed to improve road safety and help mitigate the disruptive impacts of severe weather on road users, and especially the commercial transport sector.
The guidance enables the Transport Agency and Downers to proactively manage road closures and avoid extensive delays such as when heavy vehicles become delayed, stranded or must be recovered. These insights enable the road contractors to more effectively manage their application of de-icing agents and the deployment of their road crews. It also provides MetService with vital data that enhances our severe weather forecasting and the accurate identification of potential hazards and trouble spots.
Road Science and MetService collaboration
New Zealand state highways and local roads are mostly sealed in ‘chipseal’ – a layer of aggregate chip set in bitumen.
In 2013 pavements technology company Road Science invented a water-based emulsified bitumen. The product can be applied at lower temperatures increasing workflow horizons and improving workplace health & safety.
To ensure that workflow and onsite product delivery can be optimised, it is important that specific weather parameters are accurately forecast and observed, and that this information is in the hands of the crews in the field responsible for the application.
MetService and Road Science collaborated to create a ‘Should I Seal’ online, decision-support dashboard that indicates when seal can be successfully applied for locations across the entire New Zealand road network.
Improving road safety on SH29 over the Kaimai Range
State Highway 29 over the Kaimai Range links New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty and Waikato. It is known for its high-volume of commercial transport, its steep landscape, unpredictable weather and a high crash rate. More than 70 percent of accidents on the Range happen in wet weather and 40 percent are caused by drivers travelling too fast for the conditions.
NZ Transport Agency and MetService collaborated on a two-year, weather-activated variable speed limit trial featuring linked automated weather stations, webcams and 22 illuminated road signs.
The trial aims to get road users driving at safer speeds appropriate to the road conditions.
Research for the RAC Foundation by Road Safety Analysis in the UK has found speed cameras have cut the number of fatal and serious collisions by 36 percent.
If there is a reduction in death and serious injuries, the SH29 trial site may be rolled out across other similar sites in the roading network.
Mobile data acquisition trial
MetService provides a year-round road weather programme to the NZ Transport Agency. During winter, this service expands to include road surface temperature forecasting that determines the likelihood of freezing conditions and ice formation.
In 2016 MetService and the NZ Transport Agency commenced a mobile data acquisition trial in 2016 with roading contractors Fulton Hogan, Downer Group and Higgins.
MetService provides a year-round road weather programme to the Transport Agency. During winter, this service expands to include road surface temperature forecasting that determines the likelihood of freezing conditions and ice formation.
This decision support and recommendation engine trial expands weather observation assets by deploying vehicle-mounted sensors to precisely monitor road weather conditions.
Host vehicles will transmit real-time data providing road and air temperature, rain, snow, slush, water film height, ice content, humidity and dew point temperature.
The data collected will enhance road weather modelling systems and enables MetService to advise contractors how to optimise their application of the CMA de-icing agent and where crews and equipment should be deployed in advance of an approaching weather systems.
Metropolitan and interstate rail services can be significantly impacted by weather events.
High winds and lightning can disrupt electricity and overhead wires, bring down trees onto lines, and disrupt vital communications and signaling networks.
Extreme rain events can flood stations, platforms, crossing and tunnels. Loss of traction and control can occur when specific environmental conditions are present.
Guidance, decision support and recommendation engines can assist rail control rooms to anticipate and mitigate the impacts of weather events and help operations fulfill their service obligations to passengers and government agencies.
Downer Avalanche Control Programme
Climbing through the Southern Alps, State Highway 94 is one of the highest and most scenic highways in New Zealand. It includes the Milford Road which stretches from Te Anau through Fiordland National Park to one of New Zealand’s major tourist attractions – Milford Sound.
Downer Group manages the Milford Road for NZ Transport Agency and looks after the safety of the 700,000 people who use the road annually to visit Fiordland.
In the winter avalanche season which runs from May-to-December, snow, ice and risk of avalanches make safe driving conditions critical. Helicopters are often used to ‘bomb’ avalanche risk sites to safely generate avalanches in a controlled manner.
To keep the road open as much as possible, Downer operates an award winning and internationally recognised avalanche control programme using MetService meteorological guidance and data derived from specialist weather stations mounted high in the mountains.