The UK’s Highways England and the MET Office have introduced new roadside weather stations on 5m-high poles to help keep England’s motorways and major roads moving in winter.
The equipment gives live updates on conditions to help maintenance teams decide when to send up to 535 gritters out onto the network, as well as understanding the risks of surface water or high winds causing disruption.
The weather stations also help the Met Office provide precise forecasting information for England’s biggest roads and more than 50 have been placed at key locations since 2015. Another nine are being installed this winter, including at one of England’s highest motorway points on the M6 at Shap in Cumbria.
Katy Little, Highways England’s winter services project manager, explained, “We’ve been updating our weather stations with the latest technology to make sure the data we’re getting is as accurate as possible, and to help us make decisions which will keep the roads moving in the winter months. The updates from our weather stations also feed into the Met Office’s national system, which means our roadside sensors are helping to produce the weather forecast you check at the start of each day.”
The weather stations use sensors mounted to metal poles at the side of the road to provide statistics on air temperature, precipitation, humidity, windspeed and visibility. The poles are fitted with hinges which means they can be easily lowered for maintenance without needing to close the road. Sensors in the road surface and 30cm underground also provide temperature readings as well as accurately measuring the depth of water or snow on the carriageway, and two CCTV cameras provide live images of the road in both directions.
Abi Oakes, senior account manager, transport, Met Office, noted, “Good quality, reliable weather observations are the foundation of any forecast. They allow weather forecast models to reflect the on-the-ground situation, helping to give an accurate starting point for the forecasting process. They also allow us to verify our forecasts and to keep ahead of any changes.”