Roadway Weather Information Systems

Have you ever wondered about the towers with mounted instruments along the sides of many highways? They are likely roadway weather instrument systems (RWIS) used by many states and cities to improve their response to winter storms.

In addition to sensing atmospheric conditions (temperature, wind, etc.), there is usually a nearby

Pavement sensor. Courtesy: Vaisala. 

sensor about the size of a hockey puck buried in the highway. It senses pavement temperature (above or below freezing is critical) as well as whether the pavement is wet and whether the chemicals used by highway departments are retaining their potency. The goal is to allow maintenance crews to stay ahead of the weather and winter driving problems. By indicating an additional application of deicing chemicals is not necessary, the systems save money.

Many states have web sites where this data can be accessed by the traveling public.  For example, Kansas’ is here. In questionable weather, these sites can be very useful.

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