User:LeCorndog/Sperry-Piltz Ice Accumulation Index

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The Sperry-Piltz Ice Accumulation Index, or SPIA Index, is a scale for rating ice storm intensity, based on the expected footprint of an ice storm, the expected ice accumulation as a result of a storm, and the expected damage a storm inflicts on human-built structures, especially exposed overhead utility systems such as power lines. The official SPIA Index category is determined by meteorologists following the passing of a storm.


The index was introduced in 2007 by Sidney Sperry of the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives, who developed the index together with Steven Piltz, Meteorologist-In-Charge at the National Weather Service office in Tulsa, Oklahoma[1].

Sperry approached Piltz about collaborating on the development of an ice accumulation algorithm to predict days in advance the damage potential of approaching ice storms.

He advocated three key parameters for the development of the algorithm:

  • Storm total rainfall and subsequent total ice accumulation if temperatures for the duration of the event remain below freezing.
  • Wind speeds and directions.
    • Damage grows incrementally with increasing winds, and power line damage is worst along east-west electric lines, meaning northerly and southerly winds are most damaging during an event.
  • Temperatures for the duration of the event.

Piltz and his team of meteorologists developed an "ice accumulation algorithm" that incorporates various radial ice accumulation measurements, wind speed and direction data and temperature forecasts for a storm event period, and assimilated that data into a "Potential Utility Damage Scale," much like the Enhanced Fujita Scale or the Saffir-Simpson Scale.

The factors were combined with the National Weather Service's "Extended Forecast Models" (EFMs) and related forecasting software, revising and updating the models every hour. Using this method, officials at the Tulsa office of the National Weather Service were able to predict the intensity and duration of an ice storm 72 to 96 hours, or three to four days, in advance[2]. The EFMs are continually updated so the degree of forecasting accuracy improves as more data is gathered about the approaching storm system. Research and testing of the index was aided by officials at the Oklahoma Climatological Survey in Norman, Oklahoma[3].

Use in the US[edit]

The index was first formally used by officials at the National Weather Service in Tulsa to predict the potential damage related to an ice storm event which hit areas of northeastern Oklahoma and northwestern and northern Arkansas on January 26-28, 2009.[2] Using the NWS EFMs in conjunction with the index, officials conducted a series of "Winter Storm Webinars" to brief state, county and city emergency management officials in both Oklahoma and Arkansas, and also officials with electric utilities, telephone companies, cable companies, public service commissions and disaster preparedness agencies such as the Red Cross and 2-1-1 Resources, plus area shelters, about the approaching storm and the impact that it was predicted to have on exposed overhead utility systems. A "Level 5" event was forecast at least three days in advance of the storm.

The index is being evaluated for use by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security, as there exists the potential for use by the National Weather Service at all of its offices nationwide. The NWS is currently conducting operational tests of the index at five forecast offices:

  1. Amarillo, Texas
  2. Fort Worth, Texas
  3. Norman, Oklahoma
  4. Tulsa, Oklahoma
  5. Little Rock, Arkansas


The Sperry-Piltz Ice Accumulation Index, or SPIA Index[4]
Ice damage index Radial ice (in.) Wind (mph) Damage and impact descriptions
0 < 0.25 < 15 Minimal risk of damage to exposed utility systems; no alerts or advisories needed for crews, few outages.
1 0.10 - 0.25 15 - 25 Some isolated or localized utility interruptions are possible, typically lasting only a few hours. Roads and bridges may become slick and hazardous.
0.25 - 0.50 < 15
2 0.10 - 0.25 25 - 35 Scattered utility interruptions expected, typically lasting 12 to 24 hours. Roads and travel conditions may be extremely hazardous due to ice accumulation.
0.25 - 0.50 15 - 25
0.50 - 0.75 < 15
3 0.10 - 0.25 >= 35 Numerous utility interruptions with some damage to main feeder lines and equipment expected. Tree limb damage is excessive. Outages lasting 1 to 5 days.
0.25 - 0.50 25 - 35
0.50 - 0.75 15 - 25
0.75 - 1.00 < 15
4 0.25 - 0.50 >= 35 Prolonged and widespread utility interruptions with extensive damage to main distribution feeder lines and some high voltage transmission lines/structures. Outages lasting 5 to 10 days.
0.50 - 0.75 25 - 35
0.75 - 1.00 15 - 25
1.00 - 1.50 < 15
5 0.50 - 0.75 >= 35 Catastrophic damage to entire exposed utility systems, including both distribution and transmission networks. Outages could last several weeks in some areas. Shelters needed.
0.75 - 1.00 >= 25
1.00 - 1.50 >= 15
> 1.50 Any

Wind speeds and radial ice accumulation have a large impact on the index.

Weather Conditions and SPIA Index Levels at a Glance[4]
Radial ice (in.) Wind (mph)
< 15 15 - 25 25 - 35 >= 35
0.10 - 0.25 0 1 2 3
0.25 - 0.50 1 2 3 4
0.50 - 0.75 2 3 4 5
0.75 - 1.00 3 4 5 5
1.00 - 1.50 4 5 5 5
> 1.50 5 5 5 5

See Also[edit]



  1. ^ Associated Press, "USA Today", 8 December 2008, "Study designed to measure ice storm severity", 5 March 2011
  2. ^ a b Board of Directors of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, "Committee on Critical Infrastructure", 22 July 2009, "Resolution Supporting the Sperry-Piltz Ice Accumulation Index (SPIA Index)", 5 March 2011
  3. ^ Cowling, Randy, "Claremore Daily Progress", 16 December 2008, "Index developed to help predict ice damage", 5 March 2011
  4. ^ a b Sperry & Piltz, "National Weather Service", 29 January 2011, "The Sperry-Piltz Ice Accumulation Index, or "SPIA Index" - Revised September, 2009", 5 March 2011

External links[edit]