Software program helps
keep snow off roads
Feb 4, 2009 10:54 AM
A University at Buffalo (NY) engineer has developed a software program, SnowMan, for the New York Department of Transportation to help design roadways less likely to be plagued by snow drifts, and allow maintenance personnel to more precisely situate snow fences to reduce drifting.
The wind carries particles of snow the same the way a river carries silt and mud, said Stuart Chen, Ph.D., professor of civil, structural, and environmental engineering, who designed SnowMan with former UB graduate student Michael Lamanna.
Snow fences—temporary or permanent barriers made of plastic or wood and placed along roads—serve as a means of interrupting the blowing and drifting of snow. They cause the wind to deposit some of the snow particles it has been carrying onto the ground behind the snow fence, leaving the roadway clear.
But deciding how to configure and place snow fences is not an exact science, as they are typically erected according to general knowledge about where blowing and drifting occurs.
A more precise approach would be for maintenance personnel to obtain climate data for an area to determine how much snow and wind it experiences in a season, and then run a series of calculations to determine the best height and placement for a fence there, Chen said. SnowMan provides all of these capabilities to the user automatically.
The software is based on a combination of knowledge about fluid mechanics principles that underlie how snow blows and drifts, and fieldwork on characteristics of blowing and drifting snow. It includes climatological data about seasonal snowfall and wind velocities for most regions throughout New York state.
"For the first time, it allows us to be precise about where to put snow fences," said Chen.
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