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Natural Hazard & Risk

Around half of the world’s $200 billion annual global reinsurance premiums are spent on protection against natural hazards; the solvency capital charge for most non-life insurance companies under regulatory frameworks is strongly influenced by exposures to natural catastrophe risk and insurance companies are sensitive to their relative financial and customer performance when natural disasters occur. In response to this importance, natural hazards and risk are a significant priority for the Willis Research Network.

The WRN Natural Hazard and Risk programme identifies and quantifies risks to exposed assets and populations at global and local scales. These assessments are incorporated into financial and operational decision support systems including catastrophe risk and internal economic capital models within insurance companies. This works informs decisions on risk retention, diversification and transfer strategy, including reinsurance transactions.

The Research Programme assesses the distribution, frequency and intensity of extremes across the full range hydro-meteorological and geo hazards; the vulnerabilities of exposed assets and populations and their financial impact.

Latest on Natural Hazard & Risk

  • Groundwater fluxes in a shallow seasonal wetland pond: The effect of bathymetric uncertainty on predicted water and solute balances

    Date: Jul 22, 2014 | Type: Paper | Attachment: Download File ›
    Journal: Journal of Hydrology | Ext. Link: Click Here ›

    Pillar: Natural Hazard & Risk
    Hub: Flood

    Authors: Mark A. Trigg, Peter G. Cook, Philip Brunner
    Fields:

    Summary: The successful management of groundwater dependent shallow seasonal wetlands requires a sound understanding of groundwater fluxes. However, such fluxes are hard to quantify. Water volume and solute mass balance models can be used in order to derive an estimate of groundwater fluxes within such systems. This approach is particularly attractive, as it can be undertaken using measurable environmental variables, such as; rainfall, evaporation, pond level and salinity. Groundwater fluxes estimated from such an approach are subject to uncertainty in the measured variables as well as in the process representation and in parameters within the model. However, the shallow nature of seasonal wetland ponds means water volume and surface area can change rapidly and non-linearly with depth, requiring an accurate representation of the wetland pond bathymetry. Unfortunately, detailed bathymetry is rarely available and simplifying assumptions regarding the bathymetry have to be made. However, the implications of these assumptions are typically not quantified.

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    Forecast cooling of the Atlantic subpolar gyre and associated impacts

    Date: Jul 09, 2014 | Type: Paper | Journal: Geophysical Research Letters | Ext. Link: Click Here ›

    Pillar: Natural Hazard & Risk
    Hub: Earth Observation & Remote Sensing

    Authors: Hermanson et al.
    Fields: Climate dynamics, Impacts of global change

    Summary: Decadal variability in the North Atlantic and its subpolar gyre (SPG) has been shown to be predictable in climate models initialized with the concurrent ocean state. Numerous impacts over ocean and land have also been identified.

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    Integrating Natural Disaster Risks & Resilience into the Financial System

    Date: Jun 24, 2014 | Type: Article | Attachment: Download File ›

    Pillar: Natural Hazard & Risk

    Authors: Rowan Douglas
    Fields: Willis Research Network

    Summary: Integrating disaster risk and resilience into the financial system provides the structural and proportionate means of saving millions of lives and livelihoods in the coming decades and protecting US$ billions in homes, assets and property in a cost effective and rational way when weighed against competing priorities.

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    The impact of uncertain precipitation data on insurance loss estimates using a flood catastrophe model

    Date: Jun 23, 2014 | Type: Paper | Attachment: Download File ›
    Journal: NatureHydrology and Earth System Sciences | Ext. Link: Click Here ›

    Pillar: Natural Hazard & Risk
    Hub: Flood

    Authors: C. C. Sampson, T. J. Fewtrell, F. O’Loughlin, F. Pappenberger, P. B. Bates, J. E. Freer, and H. L. Cloke
    Fields: Climate Change, Atmospheric science

    Summary: Catastrophe risk models used by the insurance industry are likely subject to significant uncertainty, but due to their proprietary nature and strict licensing conditions they are not available for experimentation. In addition, even if such experiments were conducted, these would not be repeatable by other researchers because commercial confidentiality issues prevent the details of proprietary catastrophe model structures from being described in public domain documents. However, such experimentation is urgently required to improve decision making in both insurance and reinsurance markets.

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    A new physically based stochastic event catalog for hail in Europe

    Date: May 20, 2014 | Type: Paper | Attachment: Download File ›
    Journal: Natural Hazards. | Ext. Link: Click Here ›

    Pillar: Natural Hazard & Risk
    Hub: Tornado & Hail

    Authors: H. J. Punge • K. M. Bedka • M. Kunz • A. Werner
    Fields: Hail ! Climatology ! Overshooting top ! Europe

    Summary: Hailstorms represent one of the major sources of damage and insurance loss to residential, commercial, and agricultural assets in several parts of Central Europe. However, there is little knowledge of hail risk across Europe beyond local historical damage reports due to the relative rarity of severe hail events and the lack of uniform detection methods. Here we present a new stochastic catalog of hailstorms for Europe.

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    The poleward migration of the location of tropical cyclone maximum intensity

    Date: May 15, 2014 | Type: Paper | Journal: Nature | Ext. Link: Click Here ›

    Pillar: Natural Hazard & Risk
    Hub: Tornado & Hail

    Authors: James P. Kossin, Kerry A. Emanuel, & Gabriel A. Vecchi
    Fields: Climate Change, Atmospheric science

    Summary: Attempts to monitor changes in tropical cyclone activity have been hampered by inconsistencies in global data sets, such as measures of frequency, storm duration and intensity. Jim Kossin and colleagues by-pass this long-standing problem by instead focusing on the latitude at which tropical cyclones reached their lifetime maximum intensity, a far more robust measurement. They find that during the past 30 years the position of peak intensity has migrated steadily poleward, at a rate of about 60 km per decade. This shift appears to be associated with changes in vertical wind shear and potential intensity, which the authors suggest may be associated with recent increases in the width of the tropical belt associated with global warming.

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    Development of the Global Width Database for Large Rivers

    Date: Apr 28, 2014 | Type: Paper | Attachment: Download File ›
    Journal: Water Resources Research | Ext. Link: Click Here ›

    Pillar: Natural Hazard & Risk
    Hub: Flood

    Authors: Dai Yamazaki, Fiachra O’Loughlin, Mark A. Trigg, Zachary F. Miller, Tamlin M. Pavelsky, and Paul D. Bates
    Fields:

    Summary: River width is a fundamental parameter of river hydrodynamic simulations, but no global-scale river width database based on observed water bodies has yet been developed. Here we present a new algorithm that automatically calculates river width from satellite-based water masks and flow direction maps.

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    Skillful long-range prediction of European and North American winters

    Date: Apr 16, 2014 | Type: Paper | Journal: Geophysical Research Letters | Ext. Link: Click Here ›

    Pillar: Natural Hazard & Risk
    Hub: Earth Observation & Remote Sensing

    Authors: Scaife et al.
    Fields: Climate dynamics, Climate variability, Coupled models of the climate system, Global climate models

    Summary: Until recently, long-range forecast systems showed only modest levels of skill in predicting surface winter climate around the Atlantic Basin and associated fluctuations in the North Atlantic Oscillation at seasonal lead times. Here we use a new forecast system to assess seasonal predictability of winter North Atlantic climate

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    Technology: Fight floods on a global scale

    Date: Mar 13, 2014 | Type: Paper | Journal: Nature | Ext. Link: Click Here ›

    Pillar: Natural Hazard & Risk
    Hub: Flood

    Authors: Guy J.-P. Schumann, Paul D. Bates, Jeffrey C. Neal & Konstantinos M. Andreadis
    Fields:

    Summary: Bristol and NASA issue call for international co-operation on global-scale flood model

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    Estimating seepage flux from ephemeral stream channels using surface water and groundwater level data

    Date: Feb 22, 2014 | Type: Paper | Attachment: Download File ›
    Journal: Water Resources Research | Ext. Link: Click Here ›

    Pillar: Natural Hazard & Risk
    Hub: Flood

    Authors: Saskia L. Noorduijn, Margaret Shanafield, Mark A. Trigg, Glenn A. Harrington, Peter G. Cook and L. Peeters
    Fields:

    Summary: Seepage flux from ephemeral streams can be an important component of the water balance in arid and semiarid regions. An emerging technique for quantifying this flux involves the measurement and simulation of a flood wave as it moves along an initially dry channel.

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    Social Vulnerability and Integrated Risk Project

    Date: Feb 03, 2014 | Type: Paper | Attachment: Download File ›

    Pillar: Natural Hazard & Risk
    Hub: Earthquake

    Authors: Bijan Khazai, Christopher Burton, Christopher Power and James E. Daniell
    Fields: GEM

    Summary: Central to the Global Earthquake Model (GEM) is the development of state-of-the-art modeling capabilities that can be used worldwide for the assessment and communication of seismic risk. For a holistic evaluation of the consequences of earthquake impacts and loss, the Social Vulnerability and Integrated Risk Project is focusing on the development of metrics, methods, and OpenSource software tools for the assessment of seismic risk and impact potential beyond the estimation of direct physical impacts and loss of life.

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    High resolution global climate modelling; the UPSCALE project, a large simulation campaign

    Date: Jan 17, 2014 | Type: Paper | Journal: Geoscientific Model Development | Ext. Link: Click Here ›

    Pillar: Natural Hazard & Risk
    Hub: Tropical Cyclones

    Authors: M. S. Mizielinski, M. J. Roberts, P. L. Vidale, R. Schiemann, M.-E. Demory, J. Strachan, et al.
    Fields: Hurricanes, Tropical cyclones, Climate change, Climate models, Coupled models

    Summary: The UPSCALE (UK on PRACE: weather-resolving Simulations of Climate for globAL Environmental risk) project constructed and ran an ensemble of HadGEM3 (Hadley centre Global Environment Model 3) atmosphere-only global climate simulations over the period 1985–2011, at resolutions of N512 (25 km), N216 (60 km) and N96 (130 km) as used in current global weather forecasting, seasonal prediction and climate modelling respectively. Alongside these present climate simulations a parallel ensemble looking at extremes of future climate was run, using a time-slice methodology to consider conditions at the end of this century.

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    Improved evaporative flux partitioning and carbon flux in the land surface model JULES: Impact on the simulation of land surface processes in temperate Europe

    Date: Jan 17, 2014 | Type: Paper | Journal: Agricultural and Forest Meteorology | Ext. Link: Click Here ›

    Pillar: Natural Hazard & Risk
    Hub: Tropical Cyclones

    Authors: Catherine Van den Hoof, Pier Luigi Vidale, Anne Verhoef, Caroline Vincke
    Fields: Eddy fluxes measurements; Europe; Evaporative flux partitioning; Land surface model; 2003 heat wave

    Summary: The primary role of land surface models embedded in climate models is to partition surface available energy into upwards, radiative, sensible and latent heat fluxes. Partitioning of evapotranspiration, ET, is of fundamental importance: as a major component of the total surface latent heat flux, ET affects the simulated surface water balance, and related energy balance, and consequently the feedbacks with the atmosphere. In this context it is also crucial to credibly represent the CO2 exchange between ecosystems and their environment. In this study, JULES, the land surface model used in UK weather and climate models, has been evaluated for temperate Europe. Compared to eddy covariance flux measurements, the CO2 uptake by the ecosystem is underestimated and the ET overestimated

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    Spatial and temporal modeling of radar rainfall uncertainties

    Date: Jan 01, 2014 | Type: Paper | Journal: Atmospheric Research | Ext. Link: Click Here ›

    Pillar: Natural Hazard & Risk
    Hub: Flood

    Authors: Gabriele Villarini, Bong-Chul Seo, Francesco Serinaldi, Witold F. Krajewskia
    Fields: Weather radar; Rainfall; Uncertainty; Space–time modeling; NEXRAD

    Summary: It is widely acknowledged that radar-based estimates of rainfall are affected by uncertainties (e.g., mis-calibration, beam blockage, anomalous propagation, and ground clutter) which are both systematic and random in nature. Improving the characterization of these errors would yield better understanding and interpretations of results from studies in which these estimates are used as inputs (e.g., hydrologic modeling) or initial conditions (e.g., rainfall forecasting).

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    The sensitivity of the tropical circulation and Maritime Continent precipitation to climate model resolution

    Date: Dec 31, 2013 | Type: Paper | Journal: Climate Dynamics | Ext. Link: Click Here ›

    Pillar: Natural Hazard & Risk
    Hub: Tropical Cyclones

    Authors: R. Schiemann, M.-E. Demory, M. S. Mizielinski, M. J. Roberts, L. C. Shaffrey, J. Strachan, P. L. Vidale
    Fields: Precipitation Climate model bias Resolution GCM Boundary conditions Maritime Continent Walker circulation Coastal tiling

    Summary: The dependence of the annual mean tropical precipitation on horizontal resolution is investigated in the atmospheric version of the Hadley Centre General Environment Model. Reducing the grid spacing from about 350 km to about 110 km improves the precipitation distribution in most of the tropics. In particular, characteristic dry biases over South and Southeast Asia including the Maritime Continent as well as wet biases over the western tropical oceans are reduced. The annual-mean precipitation bias is reduced by about one third over the Maritime Continent and the neighbouring ocean basins associated with it via the Walker circulation.

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    Rainfall extremes: Toward reconciliation after the battle of distributions

    Date: Dec 23, 2013 | Type: Paper | Journal: Water Resources Research | Ext. Link: Click Here ›

    Pillar: Natural Hazard & Risk
    Hub: Flood

    Authors: Francesco Serinaldi, Chris G. Kilsby
    Fields: extreme events;precipitation;time series analysis;peak-over-threshold analysis;heavy tail behavior

    Summary: This study attempts to reconcile the conflicting results reported in the literature concerning the behavior of peak-over-threshold (POT) daily rainfall extremes and their distribution.

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    Determining tropical cyclone inland flooding loss on a large scale through a new flood peak ratio-based methodology

    Date: Dec 20, 2013 | Type: Paper | Attachment: Download File ›
    Journal: Environmental Research Letters | Ext. Link: Click Here ›

    Pillar: Natural Hazard & Risk
    Hub: Tropical Cyclones

    Authors: Jeffrey Czajkowski, Gabriele Villarini, Erwann Michel-Kerjan and James A Smith
    Fields:

    Summary: In recent years, the United States has been severely affected by numerous tropical cyclones (TCs) which have caused massive damages. While media attention mainly focuses on coastal losses from storm surge, these TCs have inflicted significant devastation inland as well. Yet, little is known about the relationship between TC-related inland flooding and economic losses.

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    Surface water connectivity dynamics of a large scale extreme flood

    Date: Nov 15, 2013 | Type: Paper | Journal: Journal of Hydrology | Ext. Link: Click Here ›

    Pillar: Natural Hazard & Risk
    Hub: Flood

    Authors: Mark A. Trigg, Katerina Michaelides, Jeffrey C. Neal, Paul D. Bates
    Fields: Geostatistical connectivity; Floodplain dynamics; 2011 Bangkok; Thailand; MODIS

    Summary: •Uses the MODIS surface water product observations of the 2011 Bangkok flood. •A data gap filling method is developed to better preserve the dynamics of the event. •We quantify surface water connectivity geostatistically to give new flood insights. •There is a clear structure to the connectivity of the event through time and space. •Changes and thresholds in the connectivity are linked to major flood mechanisms.

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    Response of Tropical Cyclones to Idealized Climate Change Experiments in a Global High-Resolution Coupled General Circulation Model

    Date: Oct 31, 2013 | Type: Paper | Journal: Journal of Science | Ext. Link: Click Here ›

    Pillar: Natural Hazard & Risk
    Hub: Tropical Cyclones

    Authors: Bell, Ray, Jane Strachan, Pier Luigi Vidale, Kevin Hodges, Malcolm Roberts
    Fields: Hurricanes, Tropical cyclones, Climate change, Climate models, Coupled models

    Summary: The authors present an assessment of how tropical cyclone activity might change owing to the influence of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, using the U.K. High-Resolution Global Environment Model (HiGEM) with N144 resolution (~90 km in the atmosphere and ~40 km in the ocean).

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    As the Wind Blows? Understanding Hurricane Damages at the Local Level Through a Case Study Analysis

    Date: Oct 25, 2013 | Type: Paper | Journal: American Meteorological Society | Ext. Link: Click Here ›

    Pillar: Natural Hazard & Risk
    Hub: Tropical Cyclones

    Authors: James Done and Jeff Czajkowski.
    Fields:

    Summary: An understanding of the potential drivers of local scale hurricane losses is developed through a case study analysis. Two recent Category Three US landfalling hurricanes (Ivan in 2004 and Dennis in 2005) are analyzed that, although similar in terms of maximum wind speed at their proximate coastal landfall locations, caused vastly different loss amounts.

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About WRN

As economic, social and environmental uncertainties increase, institutions and populations seek greater resilience to support sustainable growth. Science and insurance lay at the heart of understanding, managing and sharing these risks, building more secure futures at local and global scales.

The Willis Research Network (WRN) operates across the full spectrum of risk from natural catastrophe, to legal liability, financial and security issues linked across driving themes: Resilience, Security & Sustainable Growth; Managing Extremes; Insurance & Risk Management and Mastering the Modelled World.

All Members and activities are united by a common aim: improving resilience by integrating first class science into operational and financial decision-making across public and private institutions.

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  • The WRN was formed in September 2006 to support leading academic research into extreme events, with a specific focus on responding to the challenges faced by businesses, insurers and governments
  • The WRN's membership spans the globe, counting more than 50 world-class universities, scientific research organisations and public policy institutions
  • Collectively, our members have published more than 100 papers in leading scientific journals
  • Nearly all of the WRN's research is freely available to the public and can be downloaded on our website

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