Monthly Archives: August 2018

Kerala Floods: The Role of Insurance in Building a More Resilient State

In the first twenty days of August, the state of Kerala in southern India received rainfall that was 164 percent above the average. This rain built on very wet antecedent conditions, July had seen rainfall about 40 percent above average. As a result, to manage the flood waters, state authorities were forced to open 80 dams in the region, including the Idukki dam, one of the largest arch dams in Asia. Overall, this resulted in massive flooding, displacing millions of people while claiming the lives of more than 350 citizens, destroying trees and crops and severely disrupting tourism with the closure of Cochin International airport.

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Hurricane Lane: An Offshore Threat

All eyes are on Hurricane Lane as it started to make its northerly turn towards the Hawaiian Islands late yesterday (Wednesday, August 22) and at the time of writing (Thursday, August 23, 1600 UTC) Lane is heading north, some 200 miles from the Hawaiian Islands as a Category 4 major hurricane with wind speeds of 130 miles per hour (209 kilometers per hour).

If Hurricane Lane did make landfall in the state, according to CNN it would become the first major cyclone to achieve this in 26 years, since Hurricane Iniki in 1992. Landfall does not look likely though; the current best-estimate wind field forecasts from the Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC) as of 1000 UTC, Thursday August 23, show that hurricane force winds are not currently expected to impact land. But there is still an outside chance; due to Lane’s forecast track, a shift in the track direction and intensity could bring hurricane force winds onto land. Based on the current CPHC wind speed probability, there is a less than 20 percent chance of hurricane force winds impacting any of the islands in Hawaii.

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Evaluating Hurricane Intensity with IKE

As we are approach the more active part of hurricane season in late August, most of the action so far has been taking place in the Central Pacific with Hurricane Hector passing to the south of the Hawaiian Island chain a couple weeks ago. Now, Hurricane Lane is projected to pass much closer to Hawaii and this time the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has sent in the “big guns”. In addition to “Gonzo” — NOAA’s Gulfstream jet (NOAA has an agreement that allows them to name their aircraft after Sesame Street characters), the Lockheed Orion P3 “Kermit” is also on duty in Hawaii to fly research missions into Hurricane Lane. Kermit brings an arsenal of scientific sensors including the airborne Doppler radar and the Stepped-Frequency Microwave radiometer (called the “Smurf”) and a supply of GPS dropsondes to launch into the storm.

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Downward Counterfactual of the Seattle Suicide Pilot Crash

When hazard events occur, substantial resources are often committed to find out what happened, and investigate the factors that led up to them. Rarely is there a systematic investigation of downward counterfactuals, addressing the question: how could the loss consequences have been more severe?

On October 31, 1999, an Egyptian pilot, Gameel Al-Batouti, deliberately crashed EgyptAir 990 into the Atlantic, en route from JFK to Cairo. Batouti had waited to be alone in the cockpit of the Boeing 767, and had intentionally manouvered the airplane to its destruction, switching off the engines. His last words, repeated several times, were, ‘I trust in Allah’.

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U.S. Severe Convective Storm Claims Going Through the Roof

During the development of the current RMS U.S. Severe Convective Storm (SCS) model, we found that claims for U.S. Personal lines were growing much faster than general economic inflation. To update SCS claims trends and to try and understand what could be driving this hyper-inflation, we analyzed the new five-year dataset from 2013 onwards, and also a longer duration 17-year period from 2001 to 2017 when observation datasets are of best quality.

Trends in SCS Event Costs

We gathered SCS losses due to hail, tornado and straight-line wind sub-perils from all the information we have on U.S. client claims, which amounts to over one million claims and several billions of U.S. Dollars in total loss. Figure One below shows the time-series of annual SCS loss totals and the decomposition into claim frequency and severity for the period 2001 to 2017. The 7.5 percent per annum trend in claim severity and 3.3 percent per annum rise in frequency combine to produce a growth of total loss, or SCS claims inflation of 11 percent per annum over the 2001-2017 period.

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Japan: Waking Up to Flood Risk

Hemant Nagpal, director, Model Product Management, RMS

Manabu Masuda, senior director, Modeling, RMS

Junichi Sakai, lead modeler, Model Development, RMS

Many factors made the recent devastating flooding and subsequent landslides and mudslides in Japan during July stand out as a defining event. From the intensity of the rainfall, the extent of the area affected and the loss of life, the sheer scale of this event was summarized by an official from the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry in Japan, who said “This is the first-time damage has extended to such a wide area since the (2011) Great East Japan Earthquake.”

As of July 16, Japan’s National Police Agency reported that 219 people had been killed, and many remain missing. Data provided on July 20 from the Fire and Disaster Management Agency (FDMA) reported damage to around 40,000 buildings across 31 prefectures, and just over half of these prefectures had 50 or more buildings damaged. Some of the worst-hit areas include Okayama, Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Ehime, Kyoto, Yamaguchi, Gifu, and Kochi.

At least 270 elementary and junior high schools were damaged; the commercial sector experienced widespread damage and destruction from landslides and rivers breaching their banks or defenses. Operations were suspended at Mazda Motor, chemicals giant Teijin and brewers Asahi Shuzo, among others, disrupting supply chains far from the disaster areas. Only 30 percent of large enterprises account for flooding in their continuity plans, according to recent Cabinet Office survey.

Overall, this event is the nation’s deadliest weather disaster since 322 people were killed in floods and landslides across western Japan in July 1982. Early estimates indicate economic losses could be higher than US$1 billion with significant impact on manufacturing and tourism. The insured losses may take some time to develop. What caused this event to happen?

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California Wildfire: Another Record-Breaking Year?

Memories of last year’s Wine Country fires in Northern California and the Thomas Fire in Southern California are top of mind as we look at the unfolding wildfire events across the state, especially the notable Carr Fire to the northwest of the city of Redding in Shasta County, with a population of around 92,000.

Initial observations show similarities to the Wine Country fires in terms of its speed and ferocity, as the Carr Fire spread rapidly overnight on Saturday, July 28, nearly doubling in size. As of 02:00 UTC on Thursday, August 2, the fire is reported to have burned about 121,000 acres (~49,000 hectares) — see figure one below, destroying 1,546 structures, damaging an additional 255 structures, and forcing the evacuation of 38,000 people, according to CAL FIRE and local officials.

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Terrorism Modeling: The Challenges of Keeping One Step Ahead

A version of this article was published by Insurance Day

Terrorism is asymmetric warfare, and terrorism risk analysis entails knowing not only what has occurred in past terrorist campaigns, but also everything that could have occurred. Carl von Clausewitz, the foremost Prussian military theorist, insisted that perfecting the art of warfare entailed knowing not only what had occurred in previous wars, but also everything that could have occurred. The catalog of successful terrorist attacks is only a small subset of the much longer list of terrorist plots, most of which have been interdicted through the diligent surveillance and pre-emptive action of the counter-terrorism forces.

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