Cat Losses, The Atlantic Basin, & Technology

Technology can be a powerful ally in the battle to successfully assess and manage risk. From new, high-definition models to fully hosted solutions that shrink costs and timeframes, risk professionals now have access to the tools they need to successfully manage their portfolios.

Advances both in the collection of data and computational strength have enabled more precise and comprehensive analytics than were previously possible, thus allowing a more complete and accurate risk profile.

The more you know about risk and exposure, the more they can be managed. Unmanaged or undermanaged, risks and exposures can become problems and even turn tragic or fatal.

Global insured losses from catastrophes totaled $37 billion in 2015 according to Swiss Re’s most recent Sigma Study. The 2015 figure, at just over half the inflation-adjusted previous 10-year average of $62 billion in insured catastrophe losses, was substantially tied to a quiet Atlantic hurricane season.

“The relatively low level of losses was largely due to another benign hurricane season in the US. El Niño in 2015 contributed to weather patterns deviating from average climate norms,” said the Swiss Re report.

(Re)insurers’ financial results for the past two years have been dotted with the phrase “benign catastrophe losses,” demonstrating how they have benefitted from quiet Atlantic storm conditions producing below-average claims activity.

That period of below-average catastrophe losses for (re)insurers may be coming to an end as researchers and forecasters are pointing toward a more active Atlantic hurricane season for 2016.

When (not if) catastrophe losses do return to their 10-year average, that’s $25 billion across somebody’s balance sheet. What might the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season hold for the U.S. and those who insure it?

With ports lining the U.S. coast from Texas to New York, even one landfall could wreak havoc on marine activities and infrastructure as the country moves into the winter holiday and heating oil seasons.

More Active Season?

While 2015 saw only 11 named storms with just four hurricanes, early indications suggest that the 2016 season will exceed those totals.

An April 14 update from the Climate Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that the current El Nino conditions, known to inhibit hurricane activity, are likely to abate.

El Niño is dissipating and NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a 70 percent chance that La Niña—which favors more hurricane activity—will be present during the peak months of hurricane season, August through October.

“Nearly all models predict further weakening of El Niño, with a transition to ENSO-neutral likely during late spring or early summer 2016. Then, the chance of La Niña increases during the late summer or early fall,” the Center said in its update.

The Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project issued a forecast that included an estimated 12 named storms and five hurricanes, again greater than observed 2015 totals.

The Weather Company’s Professional Division issued a report stating the 2016 Atlantic Hurricane season would be he most active since 2012. This report forecasts 14 named storms, eight hurricanes, and three major hurricanes, more than the 30-year historical average of 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes, according to The Weather Channel.

Most recently, NOAA followed its earlier report on El Nino with its annual Atlantic Hurricane Forecast, stating that this year’s hurricane season will see closer to Normal activity after three slow years.

“A near-normal prediction for this season suggests we could see more hurricane activity than we’ve seen in the last three years, which were below normal,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

The NOAA forecast predicts a 70% likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms, of which 4 to 8 could become hurricanes and 1 to 4 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4, or 5). In addition to a near-normal season being most likely with a 45% chance, there is also a 30% chance of an above-normal season and a 25% chance of a below-normal season.

Another ominous harbinger was the formation of tropical storm Colin on June 5—the earliest third storm on record in the Atlantic basin. Colin then made landfall on June 6 along Florida’s Big Bend with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph—the first named storm to make landfall in Florida since Andrea in 2013.

Earlier this year, Hurricane Alex became only the second hurricane on record to form in the month of January, sweeping through The Azores as a tropical storm.

Prepare for the Worst

The insurance sector has been substantially re-shaped since the last large catastrophe loss—by M&A, the influx of new capital—meaning new people, new relationships, even new claims procedures and personnel

It’s an entirely new landscape, entirely untested—how will it respond when a catastrophe hits and claims and losses mount?

From first responders to catastrophe modelers, one piece of advice never changes—be prepared.

That means understanding your exposures and accumulations and owning your own view of risk.

You can’t control or avoid catastrophes, but you can manage and mitigate their effects. Being prepared is the first step.

The Orlando Shootings – and What They Tell Us About the Evolving Threat from Islamic State

This month saw what the President of the United States described as “the most deadly shooting in American history” with the killing of 49 innocent people at an Orlando nightclub, carried out by a man suspected of having leanings towards radical Islamist ideology.

Although information is still emerging, there are some clear threads and patterns, which link this attack to the increasing activity surrounding so-called Islamic State (IS).

1. Assaults Using an Automatic Rifle Becoming More Common

For somebody committed to terrorizing the population, there appears to be a growing tendency to use automatic weapons. Off-the-shelf military weapons are inherently more reliable than improvised explosive devices. In contrast to the atrocity in Orlando, a 2007 plot against the Tiger Tiger nightclub in London failed because the IED (improvised explosive device) failed to detonate.

2. The Increase in “Lone Wolf” Attacks as a Response to Surveillance

A “lone wolf” attack has been defined as a single individual or a group of two to three people driven to hateful actions based on a particular set of beliefs without a larger group’s knowledge or support. The FBI believes that most U.S. domestic attacks are carried out by lone actors to promote their own grievances and agendas.

Militants involved in such attacks are home-grown “self-starters” that are inspired by the jihadi movement, but may have little or no actual connection to these groups. Instead, many use the internet and social networking tools to find propaganda and research attack methods.

Mass interception of communications (as revealed by Edward Snowden’s leaks of National Security Agency files), particularly in North America, has raised the chances of terrorist conspiracies being detected. This has led to a move away from plots involving multiple attackers. There has been a corresponding rise in the United States in the risk of lone-actor attacks, which have a comparatively small chance of being found out and stopped.

3. Attacks Inspired by Islamic State

The Orlando terrorist contacted police via cellphone around the time of the attack to announce his allegiance to IS. There are strong indications that he has been deeply influenced by the group even if he had no contact with it. As IS concedes territory it controls in Iraq and Syria it is looking to organize or inspire atrocities overseas. There are two likely reasons for this. Firstly, striking on foreign soil helps to divert attention from its losses in the Middle East in order to retain credibility and an aura of potency. Second, the jihadi operations overseas are designed to deter further attacks by Western forces in IS strongholds in Iraq and Syria.

4. Targeting of Venues Which Extremists Claim Symbolize Values They Decry

Bars and nightclubs may feature in the attack plans of terrorist organizations because there are high concentrations of people in a public, accessible venue. Such locations are also targets for such extremists who may view them as representing Western lifestyles of which they disapprove.

5. Increased Attacks over Ramadan

The murders in Orlando happened a week after the start of the holy month of Ramadan. Radical Islamic militants tend to increase their operations during this period.  A recording released online from IS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani has claimed any martyrdom operation during the festival of Ramadan will bring more “rewards.” An increase in the tempo of Islamist terrorist activity would thus not be unexpected.

The increasing proliferation of extremism and global attacks is concerning. Our modeling team closely monitors the evolving risk landscape. By examining all attacks to capture greater insight into the workings and thinking of the terrorist groups, including targeting preferences and weapon selection, we can continue to offer terrorism models that enable our clients to deepen their understanding of terrorism risk and strengthen their terrorism risk management.

This post was co-authored by Weimeng Yeo and Gordon Woo. 

Weimeng Yeo

Principal Modeler, Model Development
Weimeng Yeo is a principal modeler on the Model Development team at Risk Management Solutions (RMS), and is a key member of the team responsible for the development of RMS’ terrorism modeling solutions. Prior to his tenure at RMS, Weimeng worked at the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies in Singapore. He received his bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Colby College in Maine and a Master’s degree in International Affairs from Georgetown University in Washington DC at the School of Foreign Service.

Is this the year that breaks the streak?

Sports fans around the world have witnessed impressive winning streaks throughout history. After capturing two consecutive UEFA European Championships (2008, 2012) and a World Cup championship (2010), the Spanish National Football Team entered the 2014 World Cup in Brazil as the top-ranked squad in international competition. The dominant Spaniards were among the international sportsbooks’ favorites to bring home the trophy once again.

Instead, surprising defeats at the hands of the Netherlands and Chile eliminated Spain at the group stage. Spain’s streak of dominance came to a sudden end, marking the earliest World Cup exit for a defending champion since 1950.

From a meteorological perspective, the United States is currently riding its own streak: ten Atlantic hurricane seasons without a major hurricane (category 3 or above) making landfall, the longest such stretch in recorded history. With another hurricane season upon us, many will be keeping a keen eye on the Atlantic this summer to see if this impressive streak will continue.

Global forecasting groups, such as Colorado State University and Tropical Storm Risk, have issued their tropical storm and hurricane activity forecasts for the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season. Christopher Allen of the RMS Event Response team has authored an excellent summary of their forecasts in the RMS 2016 North Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook published this week on RMS.com.

You can also listen to my summary of the season’s forecasts during my talk to AM Best TV’s John Weber. In summary, most forecasts are predicting anywhere between near-average to above-average activity in the Atlantic basin, reflecting conflicting signals in the key indicators that influence hurricane formation.

Will we have increased hurricane activity?

One factor that may support increased hurricane activity this season is the anticipated state of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, or ENSO. As reported on this blog several months ago, many ENSO forecasts project a transition out of last year’s historic El Niño phase into a La Niña phase, which is historically more favorable for hurricane development. Wind shear, detrimental to tropical cyclone formation, typically is reduced in the Atlantic basin during La Niña phases of ENSO.

Mid-May 2016 observations and model forecasts of ENSO, based on the NINO3.4 index, through March 2017. Positive values correspond with El Niño, while negative values correspond with La Niña. Source: International Research Institute for Climate and Society

Conversely, some forecasts predict a cooling of Atlantic sea surface temperatures (SSTs), which would oppose any support provided by a forecasted La Niña and reduce the potential for an active hurricane season. This cooling has been driven by a lengthened positive phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), which causes stronger than normal trade winds in the tropical North Atlantic and upwelling of deeper cold ocean water near the surface.

February-April 2016 sea level pressure anomalies in the North Atlantic Ocean (hPa, anomalies with respect to 1981-2010 climatology). Anomalously high pressure evident in the Azores and the mid-latitude North Atlantic signals a positive phase of the NAO. Source: National Centers for Environmental Prediction Monthly Reanalysis (Kalnay, E. and Coauthors, 1996: The NCEP/NCAR Reanalysis 40-year Project. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 77, 437-471).

The Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation may also be transitioning into a prolonged phase detrimental to tropical cyclone development, a theory often mentioned on this blog, although one that is still debated in the scientific community.

If considered in isolation, La Niña conditions and cooling Atlantic SSTs exert conflicting influences on Atlantic tropical cyclone development. However, forecasts contain key caveats that will ultimately determine this season’s activity:

  • Although a transition into a La Niña phase is widely anticipated, a late arrival would limit its ability to support development in the basin.
  • Further, forecasts of Atlantic sea surface temperature during August and September, the peak of hurricane season, remain conflicted.

Does the season’s early storm activity signify more activity?

Forecasts predicting above-average basin activity are understandable, given the early activity observed prior to the season’s official start. Tropical Storms Bonnie and Colin both formed before the second week in June, bringing heavy rainfall to South Carolina and the Gulf coast of Florida, respectively. Bonnie and Colin followed Hurricane Alex, the first January hurricane since 1938.

Bonnie’s formation marked the first time since 2012 that two named storms developed before June 1, the official start of hurricane season. The 2012 season ended with 19 total named storms, the third-most on record, including Superstorm Sandy, which caused more than $18 billion in insured losses.

Would the industry be prepared for the next major hurricane landfall? According to Fitch, the answer is yes: insurers and reinsurers in 18 coastal U.S. states would be equipped to handle one major event this season, although this resiliency has not been recently tested. More worrying, though, are the prospects of a large tail event or even multiple landfalling events, which may be supported by the right combination of oceanic and atmospheric influences.

With the hurricane season now officially underway, we will watch, wait and see how the season’s activity unfolds over the next few months. What is certain, though, is that streaks are made to be broken. It’s just a matter of when.

Mandatory reporting of cyber-attacks would improve understanding of cyber risk

The recent call by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) for the U.K. government to mandate the reporting of cyber-attacks is another welcome attempt to improve the collective learning opportunities presented by the continuous stream of cyber events. Every attack provides new data which can be fed into probabilistic models which help build resilience against this growing corporate peril – so long as we are able to find out about those attacks. Thus initiatives like this, which will lead to the sharing of valuable information and insights, are paramount.

Reporting cyber attacks is already mandatory in most U.S. states where laws require companies to notify their customers and regulators as soon they suffer a security breach. In 2018 a similar EU law, The European Network Information Security Directive, will make it mandatory for certain firms to provide alerts of cyber incidents.

However, having more information on data breaches still only provides just part of the picture required to fully understand cyber as a peril.

Current security breach notification laws, where they exist, do not require companies to report the many other types of cyber-attack that are increasingly being used to target organizations. Cyber extortion, for example, is a growing trend. Firms typically choose not to report this type of attack to limit damage to their corporate reputation.

Historical attacks not a good indicator of the future

While having access to data on historical cyber breaches is valuable, the threat is constantly evolving, such that previous attacks have rarely been a good indicator of future events. Even a small shift in the balance between the capabilities of hackers and cyber defenses could lead to a significant shift in the frequency and severity of cyber attacks.

Staying on top of the myriad of threat actors and their motivations and resources, as well as having a broad view of the range of viable attack methods that exist today, is crucial to understanding and managing cyber risk. But is challenging to manage.

As a first step to help insurers better understand their existing cyber risk loss potential, RMS recently launched its Cyber Accumulation Management System. This tool provides insurers with a framework to organize and structure their data, identify their accumulations and correlated risk, and stress test their portfolios against a range of cyber loss methods. Having this capability enables insurers to understand the potential size of cyber catastrophes and set their risk appetite to safely grow capacity for this line of business.

Cyber attacks are an increasingly significant threat to the global economy. The combination of new cyber risk management solutions combined with initiatives such as mandatory reporting will help the insurance industry to continue to play itscrucial role in ensuring the resiliency of our economy.

Contact the RMS cyber team for more information cyberrisk@rms.com.

Exceedance 2016: Welcome Back to Miami!

We are back in sunny Miami, FL for Exceedance 2016 and ready for a week of engaging sessions, invigorating discussion, and plenty of networking opportunities.

If you’re joining us again here at the Fontainebleau Hotel, meet us in the Fleur De Lis Ballroom tonight at 5:30 p.m. for the Welcome Reception. If you were unable to make it this year, follow the highlights as we share on Twitter and LinkedIn, and here on the RMS Blog for #Exceedance news, insights, and photos.

Over the course of three days we have more than 60 sessions across six different tracks, so there is no shortage of thought-provoking content and discussions to be had. Download the mobile app to help you manage your schedule and maximize your week.

Here are a few highlights as you plan out your week:

This year, our lineup of keynote speakers includes:

  • Professor Bruce Hoffman, terrorism and security expert
  • Tim Jarvis, environmental scientist, author, adventurer
  • Matt Olsen, a president and co-founder, IronNet Cybersecurity
  • Hemant Shah, RMS Co-founder and CEO
  • Robert Muir-Wood, RMS Chief Research Officer
  • Emily Paterson, RMS Event Response Lead
  • Mark Powell, VP and Founder, HWind
  • Emily Grover-Kopec, VP, Model Product Strategy
  • Arno Hilberts, Senior Director, Global Flood Models
  • Shree Khare, Senior Director, Asia Models
  • Chris Folkman, Director, Marine and Terrorism Models
  • Tom Harvey, Product Manager, Cyber Models

The Lab: During breakfast and lunch, be sure to stop by The Lab to meet RMS experts and learn latest about RiskAssessor, RiskLink® version 16, Hosting Plus, and much more. Looking for some hands-on exercise? Join us to assemble 50 partially built bikes for donation to several Miami-based charities.

“EP” – The Exceedance Party: This year’s EP will be a vision in white, inspired by retro Miami and Fontainebleau’s heyday. Join us in Glimmer Ballroom to show off your dance moves to a five-piece band and DJ while enjoying specialty cocktails, lively conversations, delicious bites, a candy bar, photo booth, and more!

We’re excited to see you in Miami and are looking forward to a great week ahead!

Calculating the cost of “Loss and Damage”

The idea that rich, industrialized countries should be liable for paying compensation to poorer, developing ones damaged by climate change is one that has been disputed endlessly at recent international climate conferences.

The fear among rich countries is that they would be signing a future blank check. And the legal headaches in working out the amount of compensation don’t bear thinking about when there are likely to be arguments about whether vulnerable states have done enough to protect themselves.

The question of who pays the compensation bill may prove intractable for some years to come. But the scientific models already exist to make the working out of that bill more transparent.

Some context: in the early years of climate negotiations there was a single focus—on mitigating or (limiting) greenhouse gas emissions. Through the 1990s it became clear atmospheric carbon dioxide was growing just as quickly, so a second mission was added: “adaptation” to the effects of climate change.

Now we have a third concept: “Loss and Damage” which recognizes that no amount of mitigation or adaptation will fully protect us from damages that can’t be stopped and losses that can’t be recovered.

Sufficient self-protection?

The Loss and Damage concept was originally developed by the Association of Small Island States, which saw themselves in the frontline of potential impacts from climate change, in particular around sea-level rise. By some projections at least four of the small island countries (Kiribati, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, and the Maldives) will be submerged by the end of this century.

Countries in such a predicament seeking compensation for their loss and damage will have to answer a difficult question: did they do enough to adapt to rising temperatures before asking other countries to help cover the costs? Rich countries will not look kindly on countries they deem to have done too little.

If money were no object, then adaptation strategies might seem limitless and nothing in the loss and damage world need be inevitable. Take sea level rise, for example. Even now in the South China Sea we see the Chinese government, armed with strategic will and giant dredgers, pumping millions of tons of sand so that submerged reefs can be turned into garrison town islands. New Orleans—a city that is 90% below sea level—is protected by a $14 billion flood wall.

But, clearly, adaptation is expensive and so the most effective strategies may be beyond the reach of poorer countries.

Calculating the cost with models

Through successive international conferences on climate change the legal and financial implications of loss and damage have seen diplomatic wrangling as richer and poorer nations argue about who’s going to foot the bill.

But we can conceptualize a scientific mechanism for tallying what that bill should be. It would need a combination of models to discriminate between costs that would have happened anyway and those that are the responsibility of climate change.

Firstly, we could use “attribution climate models” which run two versions of future climate change: one model is based on the atmosphere as it actually is in 2016 while the other “re-writes history” and supposes there’s been no increase in greenhouse gases since 1950.

By running these two models for thousands of simulation years we can see the difference in the number of times a particular climate extreme might happen. And the difference between them suggests how much that extreme is down to greenhouse gas emissions. After this we will need to model how much adaptation could have reduced loss and damage. An illustration:

  • A future extreme weather event might cause $100 billion damage.
  • Attribution studies show that the event has become twice as likely because of climate change.
  • Catastrophe models show the cost of the damage could have been halved with proper adaptation.
  • So the official loss and damage could be declared as $25 billion.

While hardly a straightforward accounting device it’s clear that this is a mechanism—albeit an impressively sophisticated one—that could be developed to calculate the bill for loss and damage due to climate change.

Leaving only the rather thorny question of who pays for it.

Eliminate FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) – join us at Exceedance

RMS is rolling out the biggest pipeline of products in our history this year, with no signs of slowing in 2017. It’s not just the wide range of regions and perils, it’s also about introducing change environments such as portfolio management with RMS(one) to make decision making easier for our customers when incorporating new views of risk. It is vital that our customers can quickly adopt and then benefit from a great user experience with these solutions, to make a positive impact within their businesses.

It’s this combination of explaining new model developments and the ways to adopt new views of risk that we will be focusing on in 60+ sessions at Exceedance. Even if you know what’s coming up with RMS from a high-level perspective, with a team of over fifty scientists and modelers at Exceedance, we will help to place everything together – perils, regions, and deployment – to benefit everyone within a team managing risk. To illustrate, let’s just take three of the main perils that we will cover and list some of the highlights:

We will open the books on the science behind the 2017 North America Earthquake Model update, and share insight into the scope of enhancements across all model components. We explore the implementation of new maps such as the latest U.S. National Seismic Hazard maps, soil modeling and soil amplification through to geotechnical and vulnerability changes. We will also provide details around our updated liquefaction model through to business interruption and the effect of earthquake sub-perils, such as fire-following and sprinkler leakage.

Research driving the next RMS North Atlantic Hurricane Models update will also be revealed. Learn about the latest insights into the next RMS Medium-Term Rates (MTRs) forecast as we discuss our research in the context of current views within the scientific community. We will also discuss the work RMS is doing to better understand forecast sensitivities and to validate the MTRs ahead of the 2017 model update.

And from the U.S., Asia to Europe, it’s the complete picture at Exceedance, starting from flood peril model fundamentals, including event generation and vulnerability modeling through to the data products they inform, such as flood maps and peril rating databases.

Our solutions for managing North American and European flood risk will be explained, such as using high-resolution hazard maps and data for better pricing and portfolio management, plus many new developments, such as tackling industrial flood risk, flood defenses and real-time climate hazard modeling advances.

There is much more to share, so look at our agenda and I hope you can join us at Exceedance.

Your essential ILS overview at Exceedance

The Insurance Linked Securities (ILS) market is always fast-moving, changing, and evolving. Even in the last twelve months we have seen events such as the emergence of new market players and the increasing convergence between the capital and reinsurance markets, with all this supported by a wave of new innovations.

If you are involved in the ILS sector, want to get involved, or are just interested to find out more about the ILS market, join us at Exceedance. The RMS Capital Markets team has developed five sessions focused on ILS, from general overviews to expert-led panel discussions with respected leaders from the ILS sector.

A good starting point at Exceedance is our session on “Innovation in Risk Transfer,” as we look back at the last twelve months in the ILS sector. An interesting counterbalance has developed with investors looking for new ways to deploy capital, combined with the sector developing new solutions, to address gaps in coverage, infrastructure resiliency, and efficiency of protection.

If you want to hear directly from the market, we have put together an Exceedance panel of industry leaders from specialist ILS funds, rated reinsurers, and hybrid capital providers. Our panel discussion entitled “The Changing Face of Third-Party Capital” will examine pricing, competition, the role of analytics, and how new opportunities continue to drive innovation in an increasingly capital-agnostic sector.

There are also three sessions from our team designed to give you more of a detailed overview into specific ILS-related topics:

  • Bridging the Coverage Gap: ILS capital continues to flow into the industry, and our session will reveal how market participants are driving innovation by designing new types of structures using cutting-edge analytics. These innovations are addressing protection gaps in developed and emerging markets, with market innovation complimenting traditional coverage rather than competing with it.
  • Time Is Money: This session will focus on how new insurance products are being developed around novel triggers designed to permit rapid payment after a catastrophe, enabling hedging of time-sensitive risks.
  • Modeling the Risk and Return of Reinsurance: To address a market shift from cat bonds to more non-liquid reinsurance investments, our session will show how standardized model analytics can provide much-needed consistency in the view of risk, asset valuation, and expected returns.

Join us at Exceedance.

New products and new solutions to discover at this year’s Exceedance

If you are a risk professional that always wants to discover what’s new in our industry, then I’m sure you’d be interested in learning about our new developments: the first RMS high-definition (HD) models, managing novel perils such as cyber, and a total re-examination of more established perils, such as marine cargo.

You can satisfy this craving for the latest thinking, products, and solutions by joining us at Exceedance in Miami this May. With more than sixty sessions plus our general sessions and keynotes, here’s just a selection of the new developments we’ll be covering:

Explore high-definition (HD) modeling

There is a lot of excitement around HD models, representing our next generation of RMS probabilistic modeling, with full-simulation models incorporating the latest technology across all modeling components. You will be among the first to discover our new HD models at Exceedance, with HD modeling powered by RMS(one) for Europe Flood, Japan Typhoon, and New Zealand Earthquake.

It’s not just the models themselves that we will examine; we’ll also look at business-use cases for all RMS HD model components and analytics, from data to maps, and our Model Evaluation Environment, through to portfolio management with RMS(one).

HD modeling at Exceedance

New opportunities from new perils and new models

New perils are always fascinating as they offer growth for those who can harness their potential. To give us all a head start and increase understanding, we have called in leading experts in cyber and terrorism for Exceedance to discuss the latest insights for both these high-profile perils.

While cyber continues to be a serious business threat, (re)insurers’ cautiousness around the systemic nature of the risk sees cyber insurance demand outstripping supply. Matt Olsen, president of IronNet, will give context on the cyber crime environment, with the RMS Cyber Risk team explaining how to assess cyber threat and manage risk accumulations with our new Cyber Accumulation Management System.

Respected terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman will offer his view of a world where extremism is on the rise, as we also show the similarities and differences between modeling a human-made peril compared to traditional natural catastrophe modeling concepts and practices.

Finally, with the sheer scale of global trade seeing accumulations of billions of dollars of cargo at global ports, a new approach to modeling marine cargo insurance is needed. We’ll show examples of sample modeled losses using our new RMS Cargo and Specie Model, explain how to manage a global cargo portfolio, and tackle accumulations in prime risk areas such as ports.

Explore The Lab and Mini Theater at Exceedance

I hope you can join us at Exceedance.

Mangroves and Marshes: A Shield Against Catastrophe?

“We believe that natural ecosystems protect against catastrophic coastal flood losses, but how can we prove it?”

This question was the start of a conversation in 2014 which has led to some interesting results. And it set us thinking: can RMS’ models, like the one which estimates the risk of surge caused by hurricanes, capture the protective effect of those natural ecosystems?

The conversation took place at a meeting on Coastal Defenses organized by the Science for Nature and People Partnership. RMS had been invited by one of our leading clients, Guy Carpenter, to join them. The partnership is organized by The Nature Conservancy, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis.

We were confident we could help. Not only did we think our models would show how biological systems can limit flood impacts, we reckoned we could measure this and then quantify those benefits for people who calculate risk costs, and set insurance prices.

RMS’ modeling methodology uses a time-stepping simulation, which relies on a specialist ocean atmosphere model, allowing us to evaluate at fine resolution how the coastal landscape can actually reduce the storm surge—and in particular lower the height of waves. In many buildings the real weakness proves to be the vulnerability to wave action rather than just the damage done by the water inundation alone.

The first phase of RMS’ work with The Nature Conservancy is focused on coastal marshes as part of a project supported by a Lloyd’s Tercentenary Research Foundation grant to TNC and UC Santa Cruz. Under the supervision of Paul Wilson, in the RMS model development team, and working with Mike Beck who’s the lead marine scientist for The Nature Conservancy, the project is focused on the coastlines, which were worst impacted by the surge from Superstorm Sandy. The irregular terrain of the marsh and resulting frictional effects reduce the surge height from the storm. Our work is showing that coastal marshes can reduce the flood risk costs of properties, which lie inland of the marshes by something in the range of 10-25%.

Tropical Defenses

So, that’s the effect of coastal marshes. But what about other biological defenses such as mangrove forests and offshore reefs (whether coral or oyster reefs)? Further research is planned in 2016 using RMS models to measure those likely benefits too.

But here’s a rather intriguing (if unscientific) thought: is there a curious Gaia-like principle of self-protection operating here in that the most effective natural coastal protections—mangroves and coral reefs—are themselves restricted to the tropics and subtropics, the very regions where tropical cyclone storm surges pose the greatest threat? Mangroves cannot withstand frosts and therefore in their natural habitat only extend as far north along the Florida peninsula as Cape Canaveral. And yet in our shortsightedness humans have removed those very natural features, which could help protect us.

Paradise Lost?

Between 1943 and 1970 half a million acres of Florida mangroves were cleared to make way for smooth beaches—those beautiful and inviting stretches of pristine sand which have for decades attracted developers to build beachfront properties. Yet, paradoxically, that photogenic “nakedness” of sand and sea may be one of the things, which leaves those properties most exposed to the elements.

With the backing of The Nature Conservancy it seems mangroves are making a comeback. In Miami-Dade County they’re examining a planting program to protect a large water treatment facility. Of course biological systems can only reduce part of the flood risk. They can weaken the destructive storm surge but the water still gets inland. To manage this might require designing buildings with water-resistant walls and floors, or could involve a hybrid of grey (manmade) and green defenses. And if we can reduce the destructive wave action, that might allow us to build earth embankments protected with turf in place of expensive and ugly, but wave-resistant, concrete flood walls.

On March 28, 2015 The Nature Conservancy organized a conference and press briefing in Miami at which they announced their collaboration with RMS to measure the benefits of natural coastal defenses. The coastline of Miami-Dade, already experiencing the effects of rising high tide sea levels, presents real opportunities to test out ways of combatting hurricane hazards and stronger storms through biological systems. Our continued work with The Nature Conservancy is intended to develop metrics that are widely trusted and can eventually be adopted for setting flood insurance prices in the National Flood Insurance Program.