RMS HWind and Earth Networks: Sharpening the Focus on Tropical Cyclone Wind Hazard

Jeff Waters, product manager – Model Product Management, RMS

Mark Hoekzema, chief meteorologist, Earth Networks

As we have already seen during the 2017 North Atlantic hurricane season, tropical cyclones such as Harvey, Irma, and Maria cause an array of impacts to homes, businesses, and people, each with varying drivers of damage and recovery timelines. The resulting effects from these and other events reinforce the importance and value of preparedness and responsiveness when managing hurricane risk.

Having an accurate view of the extent and severity of hurricane hazard is imperative in informing effective event response strategies — both throughout a real-time event, and for efficient claims management processes afterwards. It can help insurers anticipate claims locations, counts and overall impacts to their book, where power outages and business interruption are likely to occur, where to deploy claims adjusters of various experience levels, and identify where fraudulent claims are likely (or unlikely) to occur.

This is especially true when assessing the impacts of hurricane wind hazard, and it is a principal reason behind the development of RMS HWind. Developed over more than 20 years by researchers, HWind tools and datasets — which include instantaneous wind field snapshots and hazard footprints — are designed to provide objective and comprehensive views of real-time tropical cyclone surface wind hazard in the Atlantic, East Pacific, and Central Pacific Basins.

To do this, HWind products incorporate observational wind data across more than thirty sea, air, and land-based data platforms, each of which provide unique insights into a tropical cyclone wind hazard profile. For instance, weather instruments attached to moored buoys record atmospheric conditions at the ocean surface, while Stepped Frequency Microwave Radiometer instruments attached to aircraft can remotely sense and convert microwave emissivity to surface wind speed conditions. Collectively, this data helps paint a picture of the horizontal and vertical structure, strength, and destructive potential of a tropical cyclone’s wind field as it evolves.

Figure 1: HWind Data Coverage Map for Hurricane Irma, September 10, 2017 at 0000 UTC

The HWind team, led by founder Dr. Mark Powell, is continuously searching for new and innovative data sources to further improve our understanding of tropical cyclone wind hazard, and Earth Networks is the newest observational data source to be leveraged by RMS HWind. Earth Networks owns and operates the world’s largest hyperlocal weather and lightning network. The network collects dozens of weather data sets every minute to provide clients with the information they need to mitigate against weather-related risks that could threaten their financial or operational status, or directly affect customers, employees, or the public.

Mark Hoekzema, chief meteorologist at Earth Networks explained that with over 10,000 real-time weather stations worldwide, their network can get a unique picture of how strong storms are as they come ashore in the Caribbean, Central America, and the U.S, and can see how a storm might be developing or changing.

For Hurricane Irma, its real-time, proprietary sensor network could see the storm coming ashore, and they examined the intensity of the rain bands and eye wall in detail — its sensor located in Naples, Florida measured one of the highest sustained wind (99 miles per hour) and wind gust (145 miles per hour) as the eye Irma passed through.

These data points prove invaluable in understanding the effects of ferocious storms, like Hurricane Irma, as they make landfall, so Earth Networks clients have the most accurate picture of what they can expect.

Figure 2: Texas data coverage map showing a combination of Earth Networks proprietary weather stations and other surface-based observational data sources utilized by RMS HWind

RMS welcomes the Earth Networks extensive footprint of real-time and historical weather data for incorporation within HWind products. For HWind clients, the data will enhance the quality of wind hazard footprints developed by HWind throughout the RMS® North Atlantic Hurricane Models domain, to support more effective real-time and post-event event response, recovery, and claims management efforts for (re)insurers.

Meteorologist and Manager, Model Product Strategy, RMS
Jeff Waters is a meteorologist who specializes in tropical meteorology, climatology, and general atmospheric science. At RMS, Jeff is responsible for guiding the insurance market’s understanding and usage of RMS models including the North American hurricane, severe convective storm, earthquake, winter storm, and terrorism models. In his role he assists the development of RMS model release communications and strategies, and regularly interacts with rating agencies and regulators around RMS model releases, updates, and general model best practices. Jeff is a member of the American Meteorological Society, the International Society of Catastrophe Managers, and the U.S. Reinsurance Under 40s Group, and has co-authored articles for the Journal of Climate. Jeff holds a BS in geography and meteorology from Ohio University and an MS in meteorology from Penn State University. His academic achievements have been recognized by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the American Meteorological Society.

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