Mapping Weather Severity Zones

Status:  Complete
Report Date:  07/26/2011


The goals of this project were to develop a methodology to map winter severity from a winter maintenance perspective, and to create electronic maps and associated geospatial data depicting winter weather severity across the country. Work performed under the project examined the advantages and disadvantages of various approaches to mapping winter weather severity. The research team settled on an approach that utilized computer weather prediction model data to define the structure of spatial variations in various aspects of winter weather conditions across the country, and observational data to calibrate these model fields to match actual observed weather conditions. Four significant component measures of winter severity were selected for mapping during the project. These measures included average annual snowfall amounts and average annual duration of each of snowfall, freezing rain, and blowing/drifting snow. The maps were developed following the general approach identified above, although the specific methodologies and datasets used in the development of each map varied. In addition to maps of these component winter severity measures, a composite map illustrating an overall winter severity index was also developed through mathematical combination of the component measure data. Geospatial representations of the data, in the form of ESRI shapefiles, were also developed and provided for each of the component datasets as well as the overall winter severity index. The states that contributed to the funding of this project include: Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming

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