Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan's four major islands, often suffers from snowstorm-induced poor visibility or snowdrifts. Researchers at Civil Engineering Research Institute of Hokkaido (CERI) developed techniques for estimating visibility distances on the basis of meteorological data. In 2013, the Snowstorm Visibility Information Services system began providing forecasts of highway visibility in Hokkaido (originally through a website, and later through a smart phone application that included a feature where users could check the visibility at their current geolocation).
The system processed weather data such as air temperature (for each 5 km mesh), wind velocity (for each 5 km mesh), and precipitation intensity (for each 1 km mesh). The CERI snowstorm visibility computing server processed collected weather data such as air temperature (for each 5 km mesh), wind velocity (for each 5 km mesh), and precipitation intensity (for each 1 km mesh).
The data was processed to provide users with information about snowstorm visibility via color-coded maps, weather warnings and advisories, and road closures. An e-mail delivery service that makes notifications of poor highway visibility was also implemented.
The system was tested among users from November 2014 through May 2015. A questionnaire survey was conducted online to determine the effectiveness of the snowstorm visibility information service and the e-mail delivery service. A total of 483 users responded.
- 86 percent of users responded they were "very satisfied", "satisfied" or "fairly satisfied" with the Snowstorm Visibility Information System
- When asked, "How likely is it for you to change your schedule or travel plans when poor visibility of less than 200 m is predicted by the Snowstorm Visibility 2 Information System?" 79 percent of users answered that "It is very likely for me to change my schedule or travel plans". Of these respondents, 211 people (60 percent) reported changing their departure time, and 209 people (59 percent) reported refraining from going out or traveling. This indicates that users change their plans based on the snowstorm information.