Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Students asked to help with weather forecasts

A MAN from Sonning Common is hoping students will help him predict when the pavements need gritting.

A MAN from Sonning Common is hoping students will help him predict when the pavements need gritting.

Dirk Jones, 61, of Kennylands Road, has produced a computer program that forecasts when snow will lie from temperature readings taken on the ground, in the air and underground.

Now the former pilot is trying to work out a mathematical formula to make the forecasts more accurate and hopes to enlist the help of meteorology students at Reading University.

The university has said the 40 MSc students could take on the research as part of their studies and hopes to confirm an arrangement next month.

Mr Jones, a parish councillor who devised the village’s snow plan, said: “It’s marvellous that they could use this program for their studies and to solve my problem.

“The current winter gritting decisions have been based on my earlier collaboration with the university and one of their mathematical forecasting models, which has been reasonably accurate so far this season.”

Mr Jones, who learned about meteorology when he was a senior captain with British Airways, uses his home-based weather station to advise Sonning Common Parish Council on when to grit.

The program predicts surface temperatures up to 10 days in advance and if it predicts that snow will lie within three days, he informs a team of 20 volunteers who then grit pavements in the village centre as well as well-used areas such as the primary school.

Mr Jones said: “I have millions of bits of data. For example, it might be snowing but my forecast says the pavement is too warm for it to stick. Then there are times when we might have to grit when the roads aren’t being gritted.

“It’s all based on my 35 years’ experience as a pilot where I needed to understand the sky. I’m very aware of whether you will fall over when you’re walking or not.”

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