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Willis Research Network Newsletter

Issue No. 5 – Winter 2017

Towards the end of every year people reflect on past events and try to put into context the defining moments of the last 12 months. When we do that for 2017, an extraordinary period of time across Autumn perfectly illustrates the continued impact natural catastrophes have on economies, societies, and countries. Record breaking hurricanes, devastating earthquakes and raging wildfires have dominated headlines across the globe and have focussed attention on a number of industries including ours. In this quarter’s Newsletter, we review the 2017 Hurricane Season but also look ahead to what the upcoming European Windstorm Season could bring.

We also focus on the latest research from two of our Willis Research Network (WRN) partners in Asia. Tohoku University continues to pioneer research in tsunami and earthquake risk in the Japan region and are now able to apply their research to other areas of the globe, highlighting new regions that could be at risk from such events. Mount Agung is also featured, with research from the Barcelona Supercomputing Center showing how volcanic ash could impact the Aviation industry.

Finally, at the start of November, the WRN held a seminar with presentations on severe convective storms, tropical cyclones and inland flooding. The afternoon talks generated plenty of thought and debate with the Harvey, Irma and Maria events so fresh in our minds. Videos and slides from the talks are available on the WRN website here

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Upcoming European Winter Season

As the recent storm Caroline brought strong winds and wintry weather across North Western Europe, we were keeping an eye on the seasonal forecasts for the rest of winter. Every season will see extremes of weather, but seasonal forecasts give an indication of the average conditions over longer periods, and hence focus on the general climate conditions. Some of the factors influencing our climate for this season are explained in a recent blog piece by the WRN’s Senior Research Manager Geoff Saville.

For the upcoming European Winter season the latest long range seasonal forecast products indicate an expectation for above average winter (Dec-Jan-Feb) temperatures, and higher than average rainfall for Western Europe, despite a colder start to the season.

European winter is also a storm season, and we’ve already seen a few of significant events in Windstorms Xavier, Herwart and ex-Hurricane Ophelia that have created some losses and triggered weather warnings. Willis Re currently issues a range of flood and wind alert warnings which provides maximum wind footprints based on forecast model outputs during live events.

To complement these event response products from Willis Re, projects at the Universities of Newcastle and Exeter are developing stochastic event sets for flood and wind extremes, using sophisticated statistical techniques. These footprints can be used to better assess the losses associated with extreme events, and help with ongoing catastrophe model evaluation, building on previous WRN research. More on these projects can be found in our recent 2017 WRN brochure.

Hurricane Season 2017 Review

In a record-breaking hurricane season we have seen devastating impacts across the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico coastline and eastern U.S. shores. However, it is not just the immediate impacts of the storms as they make landfall creating loss of life and damage to property and business, but those that move inland can continue to accumulate losses due to inland flooding. We have a number of WRN projects relating to tropical cyclones (TC) that are looking at different angles of losses driven by TC activity.

At NCAR, a new project is developing a globally consistent set of TC wind gust footprints using a state-of-the-art methodology, which will be used by our Willis Towers Watson research teams to help understand losses associated with historical storms. Our WRN research fellow Dr James Done has also been producing commentaries on hurricanes threatening land through the season, which we have been distributing via our client advocates and posting online on our storm response centre website. We also produced a number of blogs and insights listed on the right and available on our website.

To finish the hurricane season, we are also producing summary of the major storms and review of the major climate influences to be released soon, look out for links on the WRN website. The notorious run of major Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria (HIM) within just a few weeks, will be analysed and studied for years to come as an essential part of any historical loss assessment, and is reviewed initially in this document.

Volcanic Ash Impact in Indonesia

Mount Agung, on the island of Bali, is an active volcano that entered unrest in August 2017. Past deadly eruptive history of this volcano just over 50 years ago is spreading fears that a catastrophic eruption might happen anytime soon, and if so, it could have global consequences. The previous eruption from this volcano was in 1963 and killed over 2,000 people. At the time, the volcanic sulphur dioxide from the eruption formed aerosols that remained in the atmosphere around the world for up to 3 years and affected weather patterns.

On Saturday 25 November 2017, after months of unrest and small emissions of ash, the volcano erupted again with an ash plume that rose 4 km into the atmosphere. The Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali, about 60 km from the volcano, suspended activities due to the airborne ash. On 28 November, our Network members from the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre, via their spinoff Mitiga solutions for Air Traffic Management, elaborated a report forecasting the evolution of the ash cloud for the next day at various flight levels (FL). The graphs below show flights from Jakarta airport and Mitiga forecast on 28 November at 09:00 UTC for a 5km column scenario. Ash cloud at FL200 at the time of the forecast and +6, +12, +18h, for an ash concentration level of 2 mg/m3. Work continues to understand the real potential impacts of this and other volcanic related perils across the globe.

Seismic Gaps as the Sources for Future Tsunamis

Catastrophic earthquake-triggered tsunami losses have traditionally not been very well understood in our Industry. Since the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and consequent tsunami emphasized the need to quantify and understand the risks from these secondary perils, We continue to work with the International Research Institute of Disaster Science (IRIDeS) at Tohoku University, a pioneering and leading centre for tsunami research, to understand seismic-triggered tsunami hazard. IRIDeS scientists Professor Imamura and his team have recently released new studies identifying tsunami-prone areas worldwide. This is done by accounting for seismic-triggered tsunami gap zones. Their results are showing to be particularly relevant for areas until now perceived as low-risk for which new evidence is suggesting otherwise (e.g. Aleutian, Central America, New Zealand, SW Pacific and the Philippines). Their findings have raised awareness in the international community, and are being presented at international conferences.

We also congratulate Tohoku University for receiving a poster award in the category of academic research for their work with Willis Towers Watson on Global tsunami risk assessment at the International Disaster Risk Conference (IDRC) World Bosai Forum in Sendai, 25-28 November 2017

For more information on any of the research mentioned above or other WRN projects, you are most welcome to get in touch with the management team.

Or you can contact the whole team through wrn@willis.com

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Upcoming Event

The 5th World Ocean Summit 2018
7th to 9th March 2018, Riviera Maya, Mexico.

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The 20th International Conference on Disaster and Emergency Management
15th to 16th March 2018, London, U.K.

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The 3rd Northern European Conference on Emergency and Disaster
21st to 23rd March 2018, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

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33rd Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology
16th to 20th April 2018, Ponte Vedra, Florida, U.S.

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Understanding Risk Forum
14th to 18th May 2018, Mexico City, Mexico.

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Recent Events

World Bosai Forum: International Disaster and Risk Conference
25th to 28th November 2017, Sendai, Japan.

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Willis Research Network: Autumn Seminar

1st November 2017, The Willis Building, London, U.K

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