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Willis Research Network Newsletter


Issue No. 4 – Autumn 2017



The Eye of the Storm…..


As we put together our latest newsletter from the Willis Research Network (WRN), it’s clear that the current Hurricane Season is well and truly making its mark. Hurricane Irma and now Maria have wreaked havoc across the Caribbean and South East U.S.A, only the 6th time on record that multiple Category 5 storms have developed in the Atlantic basin. Earlier in the season, Hurricane Harvey brought unprecedented rainfall and flooding to large parts of Texas, including Houston. Early estimates put total insured losses across these three events well over $100bn, exceptional amounts, especially in such a short space of time. WRN experts from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), and the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center have continued to provide rapid response and commentary as events have unfolded and they will join us for a seminar in London on November 1st to provide more insight on the potential ramifications of these events for our industry. Registration for the event is now available here, with more details on our website.


Meanwhile, in Mexico, a M = 8.1 earthquake struck earlier this month, the largest earthquake to hit the country in over a century. A second earthquake, closer to Mexico City has caused devastating damage and loss of life. According to research by one of the WRN partners, Temblor, based on the magnitudes of these earthquakes and their place of origin, the events are likely unrelated and are relatively surprising. However, in this newsletter we also pose the question of how much of a coincidence the concurrent occurrence of these events are in Mexico, and ask what could be next.


As always, please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any feedback regarding the newsletter or if you have any other enquiries.




Willis Research Network informing through a busy peak of hurricane season


Following a decade-long drought of major hurricanes making landfall in the U.S., hurricane season well and truly ramped up at the end of August and through early September, with major storms hitting land. Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas coastline near Houston, while Hurricane Irma became one of the most intense storms recorded in the Atlantic before slamming numerous Caribbean and Florida coastline. The Caribbean has been struck hard this year, with Hurricanes Jose and Maria also taking their toll on the Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico and Hispaniola, just days after Irma tore Through the region and moved on to Florida. The active period is exemplified, by the image below, which shows three active hurricanes active simultaneously, for the first time in 7 years. As the recovery from these storms continues, and the analysis gets underway, questions will be asked about whether we could have been more prepared, or whether these types or storms are set to continue.


Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory



A couple of weeks before Harvey, our WRN fellows at NCAR produced one in a series of regular hurricane season forecast summaries, which highlighted that the season was primed to create some significant storms as described in this blog. Also, while storms have been active, regular updates were produced by Willis Re and our WRN fellow Dr. James Done at NCAR providing information from official storm advisories, and more detailed commentaries on storm evolution and uncertainties which can be found here in our ‘Storm Response Center’ page. The season is not over yet, but with major hurricanes hitting the U.S. already, the ripples will be felt through the insurance and ILS markets for months to come.




Mexico continues its battle against natural catastrophes


Mexico is proving to be an example of strength and resilience against adversity. While the country is still counting the victims and assessing the damage from the last earthquake that struck its capital, estimated to be up to $10bn according to the United States Geological Survey, the WRN reflects on how the country is being hit left, right and centre by natural catastrophes.


Whilst the recent earthquakes are not necessarily connected from a Coulomb stress perspective, there are other theories at play that tell us we can’t be complacent and will of course continue to learn from what we’ve seen this year in order to better assess the future impact of events. The WRN is working closely with one of its newest members, Dr. Ross Stein, an internationally renowned seismic expert, CEO and co-founder of Temblor.net, and his team, to understand the consequences and implications to the Re/Insurance Industry from these sets of events.




Statistical flood modelling for catastrophe model validation


Inland flood models for many European countries are available from vendor companies. To evaluate these catastrophe models we leverage our WRN connections and harvest the accumulated knowledge on cutting-edge research.

The Willis Re Model Research and Evaluation team is collaborating with WRN Newcastle University fellow Dr. Francesco Serinaldi on statistical modelling of catchment correlations and evaluation of stochastic catalogues, which includes a comparison of observed versus modelled event frequencies and severities, and temporal and spatial distribution of simulated events.



Dr. Serinaldi’s research provides valuable benchmarks for the Europe inland flood models evaluation project, and continues to publish cutting-edge academic papers. The figures above is an example of stochastically generated flood events from his WRN supported research.




Forecasting El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) influences on severe hail and tornados in the U.S.


Convective storms are difficult to forecast. They are relatively small in weather terms, and rely on complex atmospheric process. However, the environments in which they develop can gives us clues to the likelihood of severe convective storm development. A joint report by Willis Re and Columbia University highlights the link between the El-Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and Severe Convective Storms (SCS) in the U.S.



WRN supported research at Columbia University is using this ENSO-SCS relationship to produce and provide regular forecasts of the environmental conditions important for severe hail and tornado events. These experimental forecasts provide a probabilistic map of where in the U.S. is mostly likely to experience severe thunderstorms, based on modes of climate variability, such as the ENSO, which allows for some levels of predictability.






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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


Willis Research Network: Autumn Seminar


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


More details here


register here


Other Upcoming Event


4th World Conference on Climate Change


19th to 21st October 2017, Rome, Italy.


More details here


FERMA Risk Management Forum


15th to 18th October 2017, Monte Carlo, Monaco.


More details here


World Bosai Forum: International Disaster and Risk Conference


25th to 28th November 2017, Sendai, Japan.


More details here


33rd Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology


16th to 20th April 2018, Ponte Vedra, Florida, U.S.


Understanding Risk Forum

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


More details here


Recent Events


The 2017 Risk Summit: Managing Risk in a Smarter World


22nd and 23rd June 2017, Cambridge Centre for Risk Studies, U.K.


More details here


Royal Meteorological Society Annual Conference 2017 - Weather and Climate Impacts


13th July 2017, University of Exeter, U.K.


More details here


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