Trends in Cold Temperature Extremes and Winter Weather for the SPTC Region

Winter weather is consistently implicated in decreased road safety, disrupted freight and passenger transportation, and significant expenditure by state departments of transportation (DOTs) in de-icing treatments. Furthermore, cold-season temperature variability produces frequent freeze-thaw cycles, promoting advanced degradation of road surfaces. While future climate change is generally believed to produce decreased risk of extreme cold temperatures, regional mid-late 21st century projections for winter season meteorology and its variability remain uncertain and largely un-quantified. This project aims to quantify historical and future trends in winter precipitation (ice, snow and rainfall), cold air outbreaks (frequency, intensity), and freeze-thaw cycles for the southern plains region, much of which lies in a transitional winter weather environment. Regionally specific, relevant and accurate projections will be developed, which can be used by transportation researchers and professionals to meet specific planning and design goals in the adaptation of existing infrastructure to the changing climate. The project will utilize historical gridded meteorological datasets, including high-resolution North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR), 1979-2013, and lower-resolution National Center for Environmental Prediction-National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCEP-NCAR) reanalysis (1948-2013) to evaluate past and present climatologies and trends in the variables of interest. Transport-relevant thresholds for variables, including diurnal and multi-day freeze-thaw cycles, will be obtained. Winter precipitation types will be calculated from a well-established layer thickness methodology developed from atmospheric profile observations in the southern plains, and their relationship to cold air outbreaks will be analyzed. Statistical links between large-scale climate variability (e.g., El Niño) and trends in the calculated variables will be considered where appropriate. Future projections will be based on a suite of daily resolution CMIP5 (climate model inter-comparison project, used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) models using representative emissions scenarios. Statistical methodology will be applied to identify trends, model uncertainty, and probabilistic assessments of future risk for the relevant variables. Simulations of the past and present climate will be assessed against the historical datasets in order to identify the best performing models for the region. Resulting data, graphical assessments and publications will be available to regional researchers, planners and other decision-makers. This type of study would be the first of its kind for the region, and would be of benefit across a broad range of sectors, covering the necessary "first step" in climate risk assessment.


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Contract Numbers:


    SPTC 14.1-50

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    University of Oklahoma, Norman

    Norman, OK  United States  73019

    Research and Innovative Technology Administration

    University Transportation Centers Program
    1200 New Jersey Avenue
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Performing Organizations:

    University of Oklahoma

    Department of Geography and Enviornmental Sustainability
    100 East Boyd St.
    Norman, Oklahoma  United States  73019
  • Principal Investigators:

    Richman, Michael

    Shafer, Mark

    Rosendahl, Derek

    Mullens, Esther

    McPherson, Renee

  • Start Date: 20140901
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 20160831
  • Source Data: RiP Project 37479

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01543634
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Southern Plains Transportation Center
  • Contract Numbers: DTRT13-G-UTC36, SPTC 14.1-50
  • Files: UTC, RiP
  • Created Date: Nov 19 2014 1:04AM