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The Willis Research Network Newsletter




Issue No. 7 – Summer 2018



Welcome to the first Willis Research Newsletter (WRN) of 2018, our quarterly update aimed at providing insight and updates from our latest research and activities.


This past spring saw the WRN host a series of morning seminars that touched on a number of different areas of interest for our industry. Topics ranged from natural catastrophe insight on hail, wind and flood events, to managing corporate risks and revenue at risk. A summary of the seminars is available through our blog  here and we plan to run more events throughout the year to continue bringing leading academic thought into our discussions.


Our thoughts now turn to the 2018 hurricane season. After record storms in 2017 all eyes (if you pardon the pun) are on 2018 and what activity is being predicted. Our work with National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) continues to look at the understanding of these events and this newsletter features insight into the current forecasts available.


We also feature ongoing work on the recent Kilauea Volcano. The WRN has been expanding its research in volcano risk over the past 12 months and other current streams of research include volcanic ash cloud impact, and how our scientific partners can assist our clients to understand their vulnerabilities, prepare for realistic event scenarios, and respond in a way that minimises their exposure and business interruption. More on that will feature in the next newsletter.


As always, please do feel free to contact us for any  feedback or queries.




Hurricane Seasonal Forecasts for 2018


It’s that time of year again. One month into hurricane season in the Atlantic and we are keeping a weather eye on the horizon for tropical cyclones that may landfall and create large losses that can affect the reinsurance industry. As part of our annual preparations for hurricane season, which officially runs from June 1st to November 30th, we hosted a webinar with introduction and insights from Prasad Gunturi (Willis Re North America), followed by a  detailed commentary on last year’s season (password: WRe2018) and the early indicators to help us develop a view on what to expect for this year from WRN research fellow Dr. James Done (NCAR). We delved into climate variability such as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, and the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation (also known as Atlantic Multi-decadal Variability). As well as providing insights into hurricane season forecasts, the WRN research with NCAR is also helping us develop new methods for assessing hurricane landfall rates based on climate conditions, and is expected to feed into adjustments and advice around vendor model hurricane landfall rates. You can see the latest hurricane seasonal forecast overview from Dr. James Done here, and stay tuned for updates through the rest of the season.

Hurricane Seasonal Forecasts for 2018 img

Figure 1 Atlantic seasonal forecasts as of June 1st, 2018.


Through the season, James will also be providing technical commentaries on hurricanes that develop and threaten to make landfall in the U.S. If the coastline is threatened, these reports can help our clients understand the uncertainties in the potential track and intensity hurricanes, and prepare for potential impacts.




Sequential Hazard Vulnerability


Across the globe, extreme natural hazard events can have a devastating impact on societies and economies. A growing body of literature in disaster risk management has begun to recognise the important connections between otherwise unrelated disaster events. Work underway at the UCL EPICentre, a dynamic multidisciplinary research centre that investigates risk to society, the built and natural environment from natural hazards, is leading our understanding of scenarios involving sequential hazards.


Through a performance-based assessment of the built environment to sequential hazards, such as earthquake followed by tsunami, UCL are leveraging unique testing facilities to simulate the impact of tsunami on buildings and coastal defences. Likewise, the performance-based assessment of earthquake-induced structural fracture in high-rise steel buildings, is being considered in the context damage accumulation due to wind-induced fatigue crack growth in structural connections. Our Spring Seminar series will explore this topic further.





New Subsidence Risk Profiling Capabilities with Property Assure


Over the last two years, Willis Towers Watson have been supporting a new project led by a company called Property Assure to develop a method to assess the risk of subsidence damages in the U.K. Far from being on shakey ground, the project has gone from strength to strength since being featured in last year’s WRN research brochure, based on the commitment of Andy Lucas in leading the project sponsored by the European Space Agency, and undertaken by a consortium including academics, insurers, loss adjusters and Willis Towers Watson as brokers.


The project, now called “Hi_Ground”, has progressed to the demonstrator phase after a stage of validation against Property Assure’s extensive database of subsidence claims, and is now looking to develop a way to bring the innovative new project to market. It has garnered interest with our industry partners, and it was presented at the recent ESRI Geo Risk Insurance Seminar hosted at the Willis Building in London. The project is looking to expand on the initial funding by applying to ESA for further funding to add more detailed functionality and develop a new user interface for accessing the claims data and subsidence risk scores. If our clients are interested to develop a greater understanding of subsidence risk, by being involved in this project, it has allowed us to bring the latest analytical capabilities to our service offerings.




Hawaii Volcanic Eruption: Kilauea Volcano


Hawaii is an archipelago of volcanic origin with currently five active volcanoes (Figure 2). Kilauea is the youngest and most active one with nearly 100 eruptions in the last 10,000 years, the last one lasting nearly nonstop since 1983 and causing significant property damage. Since May, Kilauea’s crater floor collapsed and increased volcanic seismicity was felt, leading to what appears to be the most destructive eruption recorded in modern times in Hawaii. Aside from the property losses, the closure of the park is driving away millions of dollars in tourism and damaging the local economy. To assist our clients in understanding the impact of this eruption, Willis Re has been periodically updating footprints of the lava flows, using data from University of Hawaii Hilo SDAV lab and USGS. This is in addition to data on volcanic hazard that we can get via the Global Volcano Model (of which Willis Towers Watson is a partner).


Hawaii Volcanic Eruption: Kilauea Volcano img

Figure 2 Location of the five active Hawaiian volcanoes, four on Big Island. Red triangle means erupting; yellow, unrest; green, active (activity in the last 10,000 years) but not currently in unrest; and white, dormant. (Source: Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO)).


The continuing intensive activity from Kilauea has coincided with the violent eruption of Volcán del Fuego (Guatemala) on June 3rd, prompting many to wonder if there is any relationship between them. With more than 1,500 active volcanoes worldwide it is commonplace that volcanic activity happens simultaneously at various geographical locations. Currently, there are more than 130 volcanos worldwide either in eruption or with signs of unrest. Kilauea and Volcán del Fuego belong to different tectonic processes. Hawaii volcanism is called hot-spot or intraplate where the volcanic activity occurs within the tectonic plates, away from the tectonic boundaries and plate movements. The magma normally erupts in an effusive, rather than explosive, manner and tends to last months, even years. However, Volcán del Fuego is located in the Ring of Fire subduction zone: it erupts less frequently but in a highly explosive manner.





Climate Change Impacts on the Fishing Industry



Fisheries are vital in supporting many of the world’s communities. They are important sources of nutrition, livelihoods and cultural identity. However, they are vulnerable to over-exploitation and environmental factors such as climate change. To improve the understanding in how changes in storminess due to global warming may affect the fishery social and ecological systems, the WRN is supporting a project at the University of Exeter, undertaken by PhD researcher Nigel Sainsbury, which will examine available data from the fishing industry such as catch data, vessel characteristics and activity, alongside climate data from historical observations and model projections.


This multi-disciplinary project is
ambitious in its goals, and it is hoped
that the findings of this project can
underpin the development of new
financial mechanisms and alternative
risk transfer products for the fishing
industry.

Climate Change Impacts on the Fishing Industry img

The project was instigated by Willis Towers Watsons’s Director of Livestock, Aquaculture and Fisheries, Dan Fairweather, and now represents an innovative area of research through the WRN, which may help to build a new market, as well as support coastal economies around the world in the long run. The first peer-reviewed paper from this project was released earlier this week, entitled “Changing storminess and global capture fisheries”, in the high-profile publication, Nature Climate Change, and outlines the scale of the challenge with comments on all the angles and previous research linking fishing stocks to the impacts of climate change (video link also available  here). The University of Exeter, also  produced a press release with some extra detail from the authors.







For more information on any of the research mentioned above or other WRN projects, please get in touch with our team.



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

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Recent Events


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London, UK.


European Geophysical Union Conference
8th to 13th April 2018, Vienna, Austria


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14th to 18th May 2018, Mexico City, Mexico


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26th June 2018, London, U.K.


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