Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Department of


First Advisor

Mark R. Anderson

Date of this Version



A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College of the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Under the Supervision of Professor Mark R. Anderson. Lincoln, Nebraska: April, 2021

Copyright © 2021 Cameron Wunderlin


Winter weather can cause profound impacts to a variety of economic sectors in the mid-latitudes. In the Great Plains of North America, one sector that is highly impacted by winter weather is road transportation. The burdens to road transportation caused by winter weather have led to the adoption of a Maintenance Decision Support System (MDSS) by the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT). Using both observational and numerical weather model data, NDOT-MDSS generates both winter weather forecasts and winter road maintenance recommendations. Little is known about how well NDOT-MDSS is forecasting conditions for different winter weather events. Using a case study approach, NDOT-MDSS output for two different winter storms which impacted Nebraska during the 2018-2019 winter are analyzed. Both winter storms were brought on by Alberta clipper systems, one impacting the Omaha area and the other impacting the Lincoln area. Three objectives are undertaken while analyzing each case study. For the first objective, synoptic background conditions are analyzed to get a sense of the environment which produced each system. This is followed by an analysis and comparison of multiple NDOT-MDSS forecast parameters with meteorological variables recorded in both Omaha and Lincoln. For the second objective, parameters pertaining to snowfall are examined for both events to see how NDOT-MDSS handled the generation and timeline of snow. Finally, the last objective includes a comparison of snowfall accumulations produced by NDOT-MDSS for each event to other numerical weather models and forecasts made by the National Weather Service (NWS). A comparison of observed synoptic conditions and the output of NDOT-MDSS between the two different events are then undertaken briefly. This analysis helped in aiding NDOT with insight on the limitations, benefits, and overall effectiveness of the NDOT-MDSS. In both case studies, NDOT-MDSS had a good handle on each event but did present some biases. NDOT-MDSS rarely made any major errors. NDOT-MDSS may be able to be relied on for future winter weather events similar to the two case studies analyzed.

Advisor: Mark R. Anderson