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Publication Date
6 March 2024

Quantifying the compound hazard of freezing rain and wind gusts across CONUS



The co-occurrence of freezing rain, ice accumulation and wind gusts (FZG) poses a significant hazard to infrastructure and transportation. However, quantification of the frequency and intensity of FZG is challenged by the lack of direct icing measurements. In this work, we evaluate and then apply an energy balance model to high-frequency data collected during 2005-2022 to derive hourly ice accumulation at 883 stations across the contiguous USA. These estimates are combined with wind gust observations to compute time series of hourly FZG hazard magnitude using the Sperry-Piltz Ice Accumulation (SPIA) index. Results are evaluated using Storm Reports of damage and economic disruption. The hourly SPIA estimates are also used to (i) derive a geospatial atlas of the hazard including the 50-year return period event intensities for each US state derived using superstations, and (ii) describe storylines of significant events in terms of meteorological drivers and socioeconomic impacts. The highest values of SPIA during the 18-year study period occur in a region extending from the Southern Great Plains over the Midwest into the densely populated Northeast. States in these regions also have high 50-year return period maximum radial ice accumulation of 3-5 cm and co-occurring wind gusts > 30 ms-1. These values are comparable to past estimates for the 500-year event which may imply this hazard has been previously underestimated. This atlas can be used to inform optimal FZG hazard mitigation strategies for each state/region. 

Coburn, Jacob Jimmie, Rebecca J. Barthelmie, and Sara C Pryor. 2024. “Quantifying The Compound Hazard Of Freezing Rain And Wind Gusts Across Conus”. Environmental Research Letters 19. IOP Publishing. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/ad30a4.
Funding Program Area(s)
Additional Resources:
NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center)