Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


A New Tool to Help Keep Roads Ice- and Snow-Free


Testing Begins This Winter

Plowing and other winter-weather road treatment should become more efficient and effective through the MDSS system. (Photo courtesy UCAR/NCAR/NSF.)

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) are testing a Web-based system for weather forecasting and winter road treatment that could soon save lives, cut costs, and help keep millions of drivers on the move. Highway officials and road crews in Des Moines and Ames, Iowa, will test the Maintenance Decision Support System (MDSS) February 3 to April 4.

Motor vehicle accidents involving bad weather (largely ice and snow) claim the lives of more than 6,000 Americans and injure almost half a million people each year. Nearly half of the nation’s state transportation departments have already signed on as stakeholders in the MDSS (see "On the Web" below), along with more than a dozen private firms. The latter are considering developing products and services around the core capabilities of the system.

The MDSS will help agencies better gauge where and when to use road treatments. This means providing more than a generic outlook such as "snow likely tonight," according to NCAR scientist William Mahoney, who is overseeing the development of the MDSS. "We need forecasts that are more specific, more timely, and tailored for decision makers who are not meteorologists."

Currently there is no national standard for linking weather outlooks to road conditions. Pavement can freeze or thaw in minutes over small areas, and it’s difficult for road crews to handle all of these variations efficiently. The FHWA launched an initiative to address these and other weather-related hazards in 2000, choosing NCAR as the project leader because of its experience in developing short-range, fine-scale computer models and decision support tools.

To develop a prototype, NCAR has been working with the U.S. Army’s Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Forecast Systems Laboratory, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory. The end result pulls together existing road and weather data to create a user-friendly picture.

The MDSS uses several computer models to project hour-by-hour weather and road conditions up to two days in advance, with an update every three hours. The system will allow its users to

  • view predicted weather and road conditions
  • monitor the potential for deteriorating road conditions
  • predict the impact of upcoming weather on specific road segments
  • assess treatment recommendations based on proven rules of practice
  • devise a plan for anti-icing, deicing, plowing, or other road treatment

In short, says Mahoney, "Users can pick a route, look at conditions, see what would happen if they didn’t take any action, and ask the system for a recommended treatment." According to FHWA administrator Mary Peters, "Having access to proper weather and road condition information before and during adverse winter weather conditions will help transportation system managers take appropriate measures to make keep roads open. MDSS will help make roads safer." The system is also expected to save money and help the environment by fine-tuning the amount of chemicals needed to treat roads. In addition, it will help state agencies identify windows of good weather for highway repair and maintenance.

Three state-run maintenance garages serving highways across central Iowa will put MDSS through its paces this winter. Each plowing route’s predominant characteristics, such as pavement type, will be specified in advance. With such detail in hand, the system can assess how temperature combined with snow or ice will affect the road surface. Ultimately, users will be able to ask the system to track features as specific as a single bridge paved in concrete along an asphalt road. Using the MDSS display interface and an Internet connection, anyone interested will be able to view a portion of the real-time displays being used in the Iowa simulations.


UCAR Communications
Telephone: (303) 497-8604

Bill Outlaw
Federal Highway Administration
Telephone: (202) 366-0660

Bob Henson | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Transportation and Logistics:

nachricht Bremen University students reach the final at robotics competition with parcel delivery robot
19.10.2016 | BIBA - Bremer Institut für Produktion und Logistik

nachricht Discovering electric mobility in a playful way
18.08.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Arbeitswirtschaft und Organisation IAO

All articles from Transportation and Logistics >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Gene therapy shows promise for treating Niemann-Pick disease type C1

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Solid progress in carbon capture

27.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>