Author Archives: Nikki Chambers

About Nikki Chambers

Manager, Business Solutions, RMS
As a member of RMS' model solutions team, Nikki works to guide more informed usage of catastrophe models and enhance understanding of model uncertainty. This requires interaction with the market, as well as other important stakeholders such as regulators and rating agencies, to help RMS develop tools that capture the evolving needs of the risk management industry. Based in London, her primary focus is on supporting the RMS Asian modeling suite and in facilitating client understanding of catastrophe models for risk management in the region. Nikki holds a BSc in Physical geography from Liverpool John Moores University and an MSc Geophysical hazards from University College London

The 2015 Northwest Pacific Typhoon Season: Already a Record-Breaker

While the Atlantic hurricane season is expected to be below average this year, the North Pacific is smashing records. Fuelled by the strengthening El Niño conditions, the Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE)—used to determine how active a season is by measuring the number of storms, their duration and their intensity—continues to set unprecedented highs for the 2015 season.  According to Dr. Philip Klotzbach, a meteorologist at Colorado State University, the North Pacific ACE is 30% higher for this time of year than at any other time since 1971.

Philip J. Klotzbach, Colorado State University

To date, there have been 12 named Northwest Pacific storms, of which three have strengthened to Category 5 super-typhoon status, and two have strengthened to Category 4 typhoon. Typhoon Maysak was the first of the super-typhoons to develop and is reportedly the strongest known storm to develop so early in the season—it eventually passed over the northern Philippines in late March as a tropical depression. Super-Typhoons Noul and Dolphin followed in quick succession in May, with Noul scraping the northern tip of the Philippines, and Dolphin tracking directly in-between the islands of Guam and Rota.

China is recuperating after getting hit by Typhoons Linfa and Chan-Hom only days apart. Linfa made landfall on July 9, bringing strong winds and heavy rainfall to Hong Kong and southern China’s Guangdong province. Two days later, Chan-Hom brought tropical storm-force winds and heavy rainfall to Taiwan and the Japanese Ryukyu Islands before briefly making landfall as a weak Category 2 storm over the island of Zhujiajian in the Zhejiang province. Prior to landfall, Chan-Hom was anticipated to pass over Shanghai, but swung northeast and missed China’s largest city by 95 miles. Despite this near-miss, Chan-Hom still stands as one of the strongest typhoon to have passed within 100 miles of the city in the past 35 years.

Typhoon Nangka, the first typhoon to hit Japan this season, intensified to a Category 4 storm before ultimately making landfall as a Category 1 storm over the Kochi Prefecture on Shikoku Island, Japan. Although Nangka’s strength at landfall was weaker than originally forecast, the high level of moisture within the system caused significant rainfall accumulations, leading to widespread flooding and the threat of landslides. While there was an initial fear of storm surge in Osaka Bay, there has been limited damage reported.

This record-breaking season has been strongly influenced by the strengthening El Niño conditions, which can be characterised by several physical factors including warmer sea surface temperatures, a higher number of Category 3-5 typhoons, and a greater proportion of typhoons that follow recurring or northward tracks—all of which have been evident so far this year.

With El Niño conditions expected to continue intensifying the storms to come, this season highlights the necessity for a basin-wide multi-peril model, connected through an event-based approach and correlated geographically through a basin-wide track set. These will be featured in the new Japan typhoon model, due out next year, followed by the South Korea and Taiwan typhoon models. The RMS China typhoon models currently models typhoon wind, inland flood and surge for a correlated view of risk.

As El Niño conditions continue to bolster the Northwest Pacific typhoon season, RMS will be monitoring the situation closely. In September, RMS will be releasing a white paper on ENSO in the West Pacific that will provide further insight into its affects.

What’s at risk as Super Typhoon Hagupit approaches the central Philippines?

Only thirteen months since Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated parts of the Philippines, the region is again under threat from a large typhoon. Typhoon Hagupit, locally referred to as Typhoon Ruby, is currently Category 4 strength and expected to make landfall over the weekend.

Hagupit isn’t forecast to be as strong as Typhoon Haiyan; however, its projected path takes it across southern Luzon Island, as well as an area 35 miles south of the Central Capitol Region that has a high concentration of exposure at risk of substantial wind damage.

As the typhoon makes landfall, there is also the potential for storm surge along low-lying coastal areas, which are characterized by complex coastlines and bays.

At this stage,there still remains a large degree of uncertainty surrounding Hagupit’s forecast track, intensity, and landfall locations, which the RMS catastrophe response team is monitoring closely.

High concentrations of exposure at risk

The Central Capitol Region includes Quezon City, the largest city in the Philippines, as well as Manila, which is the second largest city and serves as the capitol. This region has the highest concentration of economic insurable exposure ($165.5 billion), which accounts for approximately 20 percent of the country’s total insurable exposure. Using the RMS Economic Exposure datasets, we can see that $91 billion is residential, $59 billion commercial, and $14.4 billion is industrial exposure. Quezon City has the highest value of insurable exposure with $32.3 billion, of which 65 percent is commercial.

In addition, our Industrial Clusters Catalog shows that a high proportion of industrial clusters could be impacted by Hagupit. These are located in the surrounding districts of Rizal and Laguna within the Calabarzon region, as well as the Lima Technology Center, which is in the direct path of typhoon.

Despite being forecast to making landfall further north than Typhoon Haiyan, Hagupit is still likely to affect areas that are still recovering from the impacts of Typhoon Haiyan.

Lessons from Typhoon Haiyan Reconnaissance

Typhoon Haiyan illustrated that the complex geometry and shallow water where Haiyan made landfall can give rise to significant storm surge heights, evidenced by high surge levels experienced in San Pedro and San Pablo Bays, affecting Tacloban City. The Philippines is characterized by these complex coastlines and shallow waters, and future typhoon events, including Typhoon Hagupit, could similarly cause significant storm surge in other areas of the Philippines.

In the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, our scientists conducted extensive field reconnaissance work. They observed that buildings were structurally more resilient to typhoon winds because of the region’s high risk of earthquakes. There is abundant use of reinforced concrete frames, which ensures the structural integrity of the buildings for earthquakes and winds.

Wind alone did not cause substantial structural damage to structures built with reinforced concrete; however, the severe storm surge flooding caused the failure of some reinforced concrete framed buildings. Instead, wind damage was most evident to the roofing of buildings, particularly light aluminum roofs. Large span commercial and industrial light metal roofs collapsed, but concrete roof tiles preformed better.

Since Haiyan, the Filipino government has been actively discussing sponsoring a catastrophe bond with the World Bank, but the process is complex and will take time to develop.

How is the 2014 North West Pacific Typhoon Season Shaping Up?

July’s Typhoon Matmo was the 10th named typhoon of 2014 and the 5th to make landfall in the West Pacific basin. Typhoons can occur throughout the year, but the peak of the season is July through October, when nearly 70 percent of all typhoons develop, so we expect to see more activity in the region in the coming months.

Let’s take a look at recent activity and typhoon risk in China, the Philippines, Japan, and Taiwan.

China

To date, China has been impacted by three landfalling typhoons in 2014, the strongest of which was Rammasun, a Category 4 strength storm, with maximum sustained winds of 135 mph impacting Hainan and Guangdong provinces, and the autonomous region of Guangxi.

The southeastern coastal provinces of Guangdong, Fujian, and Zhejiang are most vulnerable to landfalling typhoons. They also represent some of China‘s most economically developed areas. Typhoon Rammasun impacted Guangdong province in July, bringing damaging wind and heavy rain. Overall in China, typhoon-induced flooding is the biggest driver of risk in high-exposure areas such as Guangdong, driving approximately 80 percent of the average annual losses from typhoon.

Insurance penetration is extremely low in China, varying by province. On average, about 15 percent of residential property risk is insured. Hainan, where Typhoon Rammasun first made landfall, has one of the lowest insurance penetrations in China, while Guangdong, one of the more prosperous provinces, is the second largest province for property insurance purchases with 41.7 billion Yuan ($6.8 billion) in direct premiums in 2012, according to the China Insurance Regulatory Commission.

Philippines

Typhoon activity kicked off early this year in the Philippines with Tropical Storm Kajiki in January. More recently, the second storm to make landfall was Typhoon Rammasun, which hit Legaspi City in the Albay Province, south of the capital Manila, as a Category 3 storm. In a 36-hour period it brought 11.6 inches of rainfall, leading to flash flooding and landslides. The provinces impacted by Rammasun contain over $180 billion of insurable commercial and industrial building exposure, and over $215 billion of residential building exposure.

Like China, the Philippines lags behind some other markets in Asia in relation to insurance expenditure – non-life insurance penetration is 0.09 percent – though with higher proportionally for commercial and industrial businesses, which are centred around Manila and the industrial zones.

Japan

Tropical Storm Neoguri made landfall over the Kumamoto Prefecture on Kyushu Island in southwest Japan as the country’s first landfall this season. Neoguri brought strong winds, heavy rains, flooding, landslides, and mudslides to parts of southwest Japan. On Kyushu, the city of Ebino reported 13 inches of rain in the first 24 hours, and on Okinawa, heavy rainfall triggered flash flooding.

The southwestern parts of the country are the most vulnerable, particularly Shikoku, Kyushu, and San-in. Tokyo is rarely hit by typhoons and much of the coastline is protected from by the tsunami walls designed to protect from a four-meter storm surge.

Japan is the second largest non-life market in gross premium terms behind the U.S., and there is relatively high penetration of personal lines insurance, with over 50 percent of households buying building insurance. However, corporate Japan is massively under-insured compared to its western equivalents. Many large corporations only insure their property on an indemnity basis, while many small to medium-sized enterprises are completely uninsured.

Taiwan

So far this season, Taiwan has only been impacted by Typhoon Matmo, which passed through the center of the country as a Category 2 storm, bringing heavy rain and strong winds.

Storms typically travel towards the northwest from the Philippines, losing speed when they encounter the mountain chain running north-south down the center of Taiwan, and dropping most of their rain on the eastern side, causing rivers to overflow due to the extra water runoff from the mountains.

The most dangerous typhoons are those that approach from the south. The north-south mountain chain funnels them north up the Taiwan Straits so that they hit the western and northwestern parts of the island, including Taipei, where large industrial and commercial exposure is situated, such as the Hsin Chu Industrial Park in the province of Hsinchu which reportedly has a combined property/business interruption accumulation of $33.33 billion. However, insurers have reported few insured losses arising from wind damage alone, as the main damages are a result of flooding. Most of the losses caused by typhoons in Taiwan are agricultural, and thus uninsured. Insurance penetration is very low compared to some other markets in South East Asia in relation to insurance expenditure, with insurance penetration for non-life at 0.08 percent.