Purdue students partner with INDOT to forecast winter weather

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West Lafayette, IN (February 17, 2014) — Predicting what Mother Nature will do next is never fun, especially with this winter. A group of Purdue University students are making sure INDOT crews put up a good fight to keep you safe.

The class of about 15 seniors are part of a class at the university’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. They’ve partnered up with INDOT for a second year to predict the most up-to-date weather conditions.

Their forecasts are not for drivers on the road, but custom-fit for the crews who clear them.

“We’re more specific to what they’re demanding,” said Gino Recchia, a Purdue senior and meteorology major. “[We’re looking at] what kind of precipitation? What are the air, road and surface temperatures going to be?”

With their eyes on the radar loops, the ground and hundreds of weather models in any given day, the group also helps determine when INDOT should pretreat roads, bring in more drivers, even what type of salt should be used for different snow storms.

“It allows them to make decisions on the fly,” said Prof. Mike Baldwin, who teaches the class. “If we said it was going to snow, but we all of a sudden see freezing rain, that’s telling you something about what’s going on in the atmosphere. It allows the manager or plow driver to make an adjustment of their treatment.”

Baldwin believes the adjustments has helped INDOT work efficiently — especially at a time of salt shortages and tight winter budgets.

INDOT calls the relationship a win-win for everyone — not to mention potentially saving some taxpayer dollars along the way.

“Weather forecasts are always wrong,” he said. “The best we can hope for is try to reduce the amount of uncertainty people have of the future.”

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