Finnish Road Weather Excellence: Proud of Our SnowHow

Snowy Road
Weather & Environment

Snow is something Finns are used to, every winter. With this kind of experience in dealing with winter weather, there are many Finnish companies providing solutions to customers who need to deal with the effects of snow or ice effectively in order to ensure safety and continuity of operations.

In Finland, this is called SnowHow – an umbrella term, even a philosophy, for different kinds of expertise dealing with snow, ice and cold weather.

If snow and ice conditions are not dealt with effectively, the implications for the economy and society at large can be tremendous. Road traffic is essential for logistics, and securing safe and reliable transportation in extreme conditions is vital if communities are to function properly in winter conditions. Closing down major highways will quickly cripple a region´s logistics network.

“On average in the U.S. 1,511,000 vehicle crashes and 7,130 fatalities in these crashes are due to adverse weather.”

– U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration

Cooperation with Industry Experts

FIRWE or The Finnish Road Weather Excellence, is a collaboration project for creating a single common platform combining the extensive Finnish experience and know-how in observing traffic and weather conditions and in road maintenance and operation. FIRWE brings together different players to productize and export SnowHow to markets that lack appropriate measures and knowledge for managing snow and ice in logistics and other operations. The other partners in FIRWE include road maintenance equipment manufacturers, meteorological service providers, software developers, technical and weather experts, road authorities, and regulatory bodies.

Kimmo Kynnös, Business Development Manager at Vaisala, describes the co-operation as win-win for all parties. Everyone has something to bring to the FIRWE table. Vaisala’s many strengths include the best road weather monitoring equipment on the market, the required software development and a global distribution network.

“It takes ten times more road salt to treat a road after freezing has set in than pre-treating the surface before it happens”

Decision Support for Maintenance Operators

Productizing the shared knowledge of the FIRWE partners is one of the key outcomes of the FIRWE collaboration. One of Vaisala´s tangible contributions alongside its role as leading expert is the creation of software that visually shows the state of the road network in real time and what the network will look like with or without the recommended treatment in the immediate period ahead. “The system simulates current and forecasted road conditions and indicates the recommended measures so that the operator can best decide how to proceed,” says Kynnös. This is possible with accurate forecasts for each road weather station in the network and by using mobile devices on trucks that continuously monitor the road surface on a specific route. “We are in the middle, between the observations and the road network operator. Our role is to provide the most accurate data possible to enable operators to make the right decisions,” he continues.

It is essential that treatments of the road network can be planned well in advance. If the road surface is left to freeze or, even worse, if it becomes packed with snow, the maintenance operation will have failed to provide safe conditions for drivers. Scraping ice from the road with heavy machinery or applying treatment chemicals is not only expensive but also a poor choice environmentally. Thus, being able to accurately predict the state of the road network and direct pre-treatment resources where they are needed will keep road operators one step ahead of the game.