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Development of a Probabilistic Subfreezing Road Temperature Nowcast and Forecast Using Machine Learning
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    Wea. Forecasting (2020) 35 (5): 1845–1863.
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Development of a Probabilistic Subfreezing Road Temperature Nowcast and Forecast Using Machine Learning
  • Description:
    In this study, a machine learning algorithm for generating a gridded CONUS-wide probabilistic road temperature forecast is presented. A random forest is used to tie a combination of HRRR model surface variables and information about the geographic location and time of day per year to observed road temperatures. This approach differs from its predecessors in that road temperature is not deterministic (i.e., provides a forecast of a specific road temperature), but rather it is probabilistic, providing a 0%–100% probability that the road temperature is subfreezing. This approach can account for the varying controls on road temperature that are not easily known or able to be accounted for in physical models, such as amount of traffic, road composition, and differential shading by surrounding buildings and terrain. The algorithm is trained using road temperature observations from one winter season (October 2016–March 2017) and calibrated/evaluated using observations from the following winter season (October 2017–March 2018). Case-study analyses show the algorithm performs well for various scenarios and captures the temporal and spatial evolution of the probability of subfreezing roads reliably. Statistical evaluation for the predicted probabilities shows good skill as the mean area under the receiver operating characteristics curve is 0.96 and the Brier skill score is 0.66 for a 2-h forecast and only degrades slightly as lead time is increased. Additionally, the algorithm produces well-calibrated probabilities, and consistent discrimination between clearly above-freezing and subfreezing environments.
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