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Penn State University: "Developing an interactive mesonet for PennDOT"

Final Report


1.1 Introduction

The purpose of this project was to create a mesoscale network of hourly weather observations using the Roadway Weather Information Systems
(RWIS) of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) as its basis. In addition, the partners were to provide meteorological training and support for PennDOT in their total storm management program. Another anticipated outcome was the development of a comprehensive archive of these hourly reports. Additionally, these data were expected to be used by NWS forecasters throughout the state in daily operational forecasting.

1.2 Description of Accomplishments

The final phase of this project has accomplished the following; a comprehensive database of RWIS semi-hourly reports (now spanning nearly two years), a graphic user interface that allows display of current and past RWIS reports both spatially and temporarally, the integration of RWIS data with DEP and FAA data into a meso-network along with a dynamic metadata page, the development of a user friendly web page for use by DOT roadway managers that displays RWIS products and NWS radar data, the beginning of an extensive test of RWIS sites to document biases in temperature, dewpoint and wind data. The development of a quality control system similar to the Oklahoma Climate Survey with intended daily reports of flagged observations available to PennDOT.



A graphic interface has been developed which displays the various components of the meso-net, specifically the RWIS sites. A detailed metadata of each RWIS site has been completed with the interface finished. The completion of an interactive web page showing roadway data along with NWS products plus winter weather outlooks for the DOT districts (based on model data and its interpretation). See .


After the PennDOT course was completed at least one local office (Mercer County) requested an individual training session, which was completed on Wednesday November 4, 2002. Additionally, the training has provided multiple contacts between other local NWS offices and their PennDOT associates.

Additionally, these courses were successful in creating lines of communication between the NWS and PennDOT during winter storms. This past winter had numerous significant snow storms in Pennsylvania. The NWS was able to communicate with individual PennDOT offices and provide substantial information to help PennDOT refine their operations. Additionally, a few PennDOT offices were vigilant about providing snowfall information to the NWS. This data was used in verification of NWS Winter Storm Warnings and displayed on maps via NWS Internet sites.

The new communication between the NWS and PennDOT has fostered a working relationship that will hopefully continue into the future.



There continues to be numerous benefits specifically with the development of several new displays of RWIS data sets. The design of dynamic web pages and detailed metadata pages has been completed. Ten student climate interns have learned procedures of data quality control. The new mesonet is being used in several meteorology classes (Meteo 482 and
473) this spring 2003 semester. A new course on mesoscale climatology which will use these data sets is being designed for fall 2003 semester and it will also be included in the advanced applications of computers in meteorology class (Meteo 474) during the fall 2003.


The benefits of this program have been numerous. With routine observations from PennDOT RWIS sites, NWS forecasters have access to substantially more information to make routine forecasts. RWIS data is routinely ingested and formatted for display with AWIPS to help in ease of use. These data will also be offered to other NWS offices that have local coverage in Pennsylvania, thus the use and importance of the data will increase.

In addition, we are just scratching the surface of potential benefit due to the cooperation between the NWS and PennDOT. We plan on future training sessions for interested District personnel in observing severe weather. We hope to get many additional Skywarn observers through the PennDOT system. These observers will be encouraged to report summertime thunderstorm damage such as hail, downed trees and damage to personal property. These additional reports will hopefully enhance the verification efforts of severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings.



We presented a paper about this project at the AMS Applied Climatology conference in Portland this past May. A project summary was presented at the Federal Highway Administration in mid-September. At the IIPS poster session of the AMS annual meeting in Long Beach in February, 2003, there was a description of the project and its results. A summary of this will be submitted to PennDOT for consideration in their New Technology Update (through BOMO) publication in late April.


A project summary was presented at the Federal Highway Administration in mid-September. Two papers were submitted to the IIPS session of the AMS annual meeting in Long Beach for February, 2003. One was incorporated in a summation of the Comet-FHWA projects, the other was presented in a poster session.



We are pleased to report that the focus of PennDOT's spring manager's meeting will be on the quality and accuracy of the RWIS reports. We will supply the Technology Manager (Alfred Uzokwe) with specific site data histories for use in that meeting. We are exploring ways to receive sub-5 minute data on a once a day retrieval through PennDOT. This may be tested on a district basis first. There is a plan to have 15 minute data made available for next winter season.


The only issue remaining thus far is the data timing issue. With RWIS' reports coming at various intervals each hour, not all reports can be incorporated into AWIPS. However, PennDOT has recommended that in the next cold season, 15 minute data should be available, solving this matter of data incorporation.