Vaisala’s road weather stations help conserve salt in the UK

Jan 12, 2010 – Sub-zero temperatures and heavy snowfall have left roads icy across the UK. In the past week, road surface temperatures have dived to near -20�C all over the country. On the M4 motorway at Lower Lapdown, for example, a temperature of -18.2�C was recorded on Thursday morning while the A27 at Temple Bar in Kent dropped to -17.3�C around the same time (*).

Local authorities are working around the clock to keep roads open and safe, but councils have been forced to limit the extent of roads gritted, as salt supplies are running critically low. More snow and ice can be expected still as milder, but much moister air is trying to push in off the Atlantic followed by another cold spell. What’s more, the moisture can also come down as cold rain, which would make the road conditions even more difficult.

Vaisala’s network of road side weather stations plays a vital part in the battle against hazardous road conditions caused by winter weather. The stations measure road surface temperatures as well as the state of the road in regard of ice and snow. This data is then fed directly into operational control rooms all over the country, where winter service managers use it to see how effective their treatments have been and whether there is a need to re-run routes.

“The weather has been so extreme that we’ve barely needed to look at the meteorological information. It has been COLD, Cold and COLD. However, road weather cameras have proved useful in providing a readily accessible reference for road conditions”, says John Robinson, Highways Network Manager for Cumbria County Council, continuing:

“When the cold eases off and roads begin to thaw, the equipment will be very useful in managing the gritting service, as it gives us a measure of how much ‘cold’ there is remaining lower down in the roads.”

As up-to-date information on the actual weather conditions on the road can be utilized to decide on when � and when not � to put salt down, the increasingly scarce resource is only used when absolutely necessary. Vaisala assists highway authorities in optimizing the design of salting routes, ensuring that the network is treated in the most efficient manner, with the most critical roads being treated as a priority.

About Vaisala

Vaisala is a global leader in environmental and industrial measurement. Building on more than 70 years of experience, Vaisala contributes to a better quality of life by providing a comprehensive range of innovative observation and measurement products and services for meteorology, weather critical operations and controlled environments. Headquartered in Finland, Vaisala employs over 1,300 professionals worldwide and is listed on the NASDAQ OMX Helsinki.

Vaisala has over 1,000 road weather stations installed throughout the UK. The stations are situated within a few metres of the side of a road, and take measurements off its surface by using either sensors buried in the road or by new remote sensors looking down onto the road. The data is collected and stored in the global data centre located in Birmingham, where it is quality controlled and sent back to the highway authorities via various software packages that allow them to view the data in real-time.

(*Temperatures recorded with Vaisala road weather stations)