The research, funded by the University of Bath’s EPSRC Knowledge Transfer Account, has resulted in new software called ‘Open Road’ which councils can use to make much more accurate predictions of ground temperatures.

This ground temperature data will be used by councils to determine exactly when and where roads need to be gritted in order to improve driving conditions for those using them in the cold winter months.

Chiara Piccolo, researcher from the Met Office, said: “Following a couple of extremely cold winters which have bought roads to a stop and prevented companies from maintaining business as normal, councils around the country are looking for a system that helps them prepare for extreme conditions.

“Our research resulted in particularly useful data predicting low-level temperatures, which proved extremely important for maintaining the road network in a safe condition. This led to the development of Open Road software which will assist councils throughout the coldest months of the year.”

Professor Chris Budd, researcher in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Bath, said: “The development of Open Road involved bringing together expertise from the University and the Met Office in a field of mathematics called adaptivity. The group applied adaptivity to existing forecasting procedures to increase the efficiency and reliability of extreme weather forecasting.

“Bath is at the forefront of research into adaptivity, and this is a great example of complex mathematics being applied to a problem that affects us all every winter, resulting in a programme that will make a large difference to how we go about our lives.”

The mathematicians work has resulted in imaging of higher resolution that allows forecasters to more accurately predict extremely cold ground temperatures. Current forecasts lack this ability, and it’s hoped that the new system will significantly help to limit the social impact, such as fatalities, loss of property and the paralysis of transport networks, that is associated with poor weather conditions on the road.

Professor Budd said: “I am delighted to see our research in adaptivity contributing to the Met Office’s forecasting and the new Open Road software. This collaboration between mathematicians from the University and the Met Office will hopefully make a big difference in keeping the countries roads clearer each winter.”

The research team is now looking to continue the development of adaptivity in weather forecasting, with the hope of further improving accuracy and applying the technique to a wider range of weather scenarios.