Climate Change Expected to Increase Storm Activity in Texas
Scientists at SMU-Willis Research Network Conference Say Straight-line Winds Pose Growing Threat
DALLAS, January 21, 2010 - Climate change will likely increase the frequency and severity of storm activity
in Texas, an area of the country that is especially vulnerable to the “triple threat” of
hurricanes, hail storms and tornadoes, weather researchers said today at a conference at Southern Methodist University’s
Cox School of Business sponsored by the Willis Research Network.
The Willis Research Network, part of Willis Group Holdings, the global insurance broker, is an industry-leading public-private
partnership between Willis and many of the world’s top scientific research institutions.
Speaking at the conference, Dr. Harold Brooks of the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) said that straight-line
winds - the violent air currents that usually accompany thunderstorms and are produced when areas of
low and high pressure collide - represent a growing threat to homes and businesses. Compared
with hurricanes, tornadoes and, to a lesser extent, hail, such winds are a relatively small contributor
to structural damage at present, he said, but as the climate changes, NSSL researchers believe these
events will become more frequent and therefore contribute more significantly to overall damage.
“Based on what we know about the potential patterns of climate change, we expect severe storm activity
to increase in Texas and the Midwest, including higher activity of straight-line winds with potentially damaging
effects,” Dr. Brooks said.
One way to mitigate against storm damage is to build stronger buildings. According to the Institute
for Business and Home Safety (IBHS), better building performance can be assured by spending a few
percent more on construction that goes beyond the minimum building code requirements.
According to Dr. Tim Reinhold of the IBHS, homeowners who build new homes or retrofit existing homes
following guidance offered through the IBHS Fortified…for safer living® program are much less likely to
suffer damage or be displaced from their homes when severe weather strikes. “The Fortified…for safer
living® homes in Hurricane Ike performed remarkably well structurally, and had minor interior damage,” Reinhold said.
“Of the approximately 200 homes located in one residential area affected by Ike, 14 remained
standing after the storm. Ten of those houses were ‘Fortified’.”
Insurance companies can play a significant role in motivating property owners through incentives to retrofit their properties
with enhanced roofing materials, shutters, proper garage bracing, soffit strengthening and other enhancements that will reduce
the likelihood of severe damage. This could save the average home/business owner thousands of dollars
in costs associated with being unable to use the property for weeks or months while it
is being repaired, as well as saving insurance companies millions of dollars on insurance claims.
According to Kyle Beatty, Business Leader for Willis’ Catastrophe Management Services unit, “Property owners, communities, and insurance
companies should work together to prepare for extreme wind risk by adopting appropriate building standards.
This collaboration could mitigate the damaging effects that cost insurance companies and taxpayers millions of dollars
each year. “
About SMU Cox
The SMU Cox School of Business offers a full range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs, including
a recently established Risk Management Program, as well as innovative professional development resources that help individuals
and companies prepare for the future. Major publications-including BusinessWeek, The Economist, Financial Times, Forbes, U.S. News
& World Report and The Wall Street Journal-rank SMU Cox among the top business schools in
the nation and around the world.
About the Willis Research Network
The Willis Research Network (WRN) is focused on evaluating the frequency, severity and impact of major catastrophes
and seeks to help society at local and global levels manage these risks and share the
costs of these events via public and private sector approaches. To achieve this mission, Willis has
teamed up with 32 leading institutions across a full range of disciplines from atmospheric science and
climate statistics, to geography, hydrology and seismology, to assess the impacts on the environment via engineering,
exposure analysis and Geographic Information Systems. Additional information can be found at www.willisresearchnetwork.com
The WRN is funded by Willis Group Holdings plc (NYSE: WSH), a leading global insurance broker, developing
and delivering professional insurance, reinsurance, risk management, financial and human resource consulting and actuarial services to
corporations, public entities and institutions around the world. Willis has more than 400 offices in nearly
120 countries, with a global team of approximately 20,000 Associates serving clients in some 190 countries.
Additional information on Willis may be found at www.willis.com.