In our previous blog, we introduced the RMS clients who will be joining this year’s RMS Impact Trek, heading off to the Philippines on March 17 to help support the work of our longstanding partner, Build Change. Now it’s time to meet some of the RMS employees who they will work together with on a 10-day trek with Build Change to learn more about how to ensure communities benefit from safe housing, through the use of retrofitting and sound construction methods. For more insight, watch the video below from the 2018 Impact Trek in Nepal.
Simon Athawes: Product Manager (APAC Climate Hazards)
I work as a product manager in the Asia climate hazards team at RMS and my most recent project was the RMS Philippines Typhoon and Inland Flood Model, so I was very excited to join this year’s Impact Trek in the Philippines. I’m hoping I can apply my knowledge of the hazards and risks in the country, to help further the aims of Build Change in increasing resiliency in vulnerable communities and ensure they are better prepared for the next catastrophe.
I’m also looking forward to seeing how Build Change makes an impact at the local level and hearing the experiences of people in their local communities about living with the risk of earthquakes and typhoons, and to see how risk management and resiliency measures can be applied.
Laura Barksby: Product Manager
This year’s Impact Trek combines my academic background, as well as my role at RMS working on global earthquake models, particularly for the Asia Pacific region. I am interested to learn first-hand how Build Change raise awareness of typhoon and earthquake risk, when there are other more immediate socioeconomic challenges that affect the local community.
This was something that I witnessed during a field trip to Nepal prior to the 2015 earthquake, where the risk, particularly in rural communities was very poorly understood. I am also interested in how our expertise can help Build Change in their work, given the disparity between the risk in the Philippines, and local communities’ recognition and perceptions of the risk.
James Cosgrove: Modeler, RMS Event Response
I’ve worked in the RMS Event Response team for over two and a half years and have responded in real-time to hundreds of events, including the two super typhoons (Yutu and Mangkhut) that impacted the Philippines in 2018. Tens of thousands of homes, mostly made of light and unreinforced materials, were extensively damaged and dozens of communities were destroyed – and most of the damage was uninsured.
With this year’s Trek going to the Philippines, it offers a fantastic opportunity to assist with Build Change’s mission to improve resilience and to see first-hand the tangible improvements they are making, such as retrofitting structures and educating local stakeholders on safer construction practices.
And for the first time, the Impact Trek is in a country where RMS has two catastrophe models (Philippines Typhoon and Inland Flood, and Southeast Asia Earthquake). This provides a fantastic opportunity to use our science to help Build Change quantify the economic and social benefits of their pre-disaster retrofitting and reconstruction projects.
Kate Demchak: Associate Program Manager- Technical
The Impact Trek provides the opportunity for participants to drive meaningful, positive change – not just in the location of the travel, but also in their home community, to gain an appreciation for those organizations making a difference to vulnerable communities. And to truly make an impact in an environment different than your own, you must have an understanding of that community’s way of thinking and their values, to understand how our related field of work can contribute outside of our company. The vulnerability of this area is obviously an opportunity to drive meaningful change towards resiliency for this country of over 100 million people.
Having a passion and excitement for the change and the impact that you can have as an individual, and as a team will also motivate to pursue different angles of viewing risk and resiliency globally.
Theresa Lederer: Consultant, Capital & Resilience Solutions
For me, it’s a mix of interest in Build Change and the work they are doing, and the Philippines as a country. Working in the CRS (Capital and Resilience Solutions) team at RMS, I’ve also been involved in quite a few projects which apply risk modeling to help governments and communities better understand and manage their risk – which also ties in very well with Build Change’s mission.
One of the projects I worked on last year was focused around providing Philippine cities with access to affordable insurance against earthquakes and typhoon. I’m excited about getting an insight into the daily lives of people in the Philippines, and their biggest challenges, concerns and ambitions around disaster risk – and how the work Build Change is doing is targeting those. Our work at RMS can be very technical, so I think it’ll be interesting to get a more practical perspective on the ground, and to understand what our modeling capabilities can mean for local communities.
The Blizzard of 2016: The Historical Significance of Winter Storm Jonas
Many of us in the Northeastern U.S. can remember the Blizzard of 1996 as a crippling winter weather event that dumped multiple feet of snow across major cities along the I-95 corridor of Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston.
20 years later, another historic winter storm has joined the 1996 event in the record books, this time occurring in a more socially connected world where winter storms are given names that share a resemblance to a popular boy band (thanks to the naming by The Weather Channel of Winter Storm Jonas).
Blowing and drifting snow on cars parked in an unplowed street in Hoboken, New Jersey at the height of the storm.
Credit: Jeff Waters, Meteorologist and resident of Hoboken from RMS
The Blizzard of 1996 saw (in today’s terms) an economic loss of $4.6 billion as well as insured losses of $900 million for the affected states, which corresponds to a loss return period within the RMS U.S. and Canada Winterstorm Model of roughly 10 years. Many of the same drivers of loss in the 1996 event were evident during Winter Storm Jonas, including business interruption caused by halted public transportation services in cities like Washington, D.C., and New York City, as well as coastal flooding along the New Jersey shorelines.
The Blizzard of 2016, dropped as much as 40 inches of snow in some regions of the Mid-Atlantic, causing wide scale disruption for approximately 85 million people, including over 300,000 power outages, cancellation of almost 12,000 flights, and a death toll of at least 48 people. The table below summarizes snowfall amounts for this year’s storm from three major Northeast cities as it compares to similar historic winter storms. These ranges of snowfall correspond to a 10-25 hazard return period event for the affected areas, according to RMS.
U.S. CityBlizzard of ’16Blizzard of ’96Snowpocalypse ’10February 2006
Philadelphia 22.4in/567mm 30.7in/780mm 8.5in/724mm 12.0in/305mm
Baltimore 29.2in/742mm 26.6in/676mm 25.0in/635mm 13.1in/333mm
New York City 26.8in/681mm 20.5in/521mm 20.9in/531mm 26.9in/683mm
*Data from the National Weather Service
Another comparison between 1996 and 2016 events are seen through the following NOAA link explaining how the two storms compared on the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale (NESIS), which takes into account population and societal impacts in addition to meteorological measurements.
There were warning signs in the week leading up to the event that a major nor’easter would creep up the east coast and “bomb out” just offshore. This refers to a meteorological term known as “bombogenesis” in which the pressure in the center of the storm drops rapidly, further intensifying the storm and allowing for heavier snow bands to move inland at snowfall rates of 1-3 inches per hour.
One of the things that will make the Blizzard of 2016 one to remember are the snowfall rates of more than 1” per hour that affected several major cities for an extended period of time. According to The Weather Channel, “New York’s LaGuardia airport had 14 hours of 1 to 3 inch per hour snowfall rates from 6 a.m. Saturday until 8 p.m. Saturday.”
Another unique aspect of the storm was the reports of a meteorological phenomenon known as “thundersnow,” which according to the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL), “can be found where there is relatively strong instability and abundant moisture above the surface.”
The phenomenon known as “thundersnow” was reported during Winter Storm Jonas and was captured by NASA astronaut Scott Kelly in this picture of lightning taken from a window on the International Space Station.
Credit: NASA/Scott Kelly via Twitter (@StationCDRKelly)
Time will tell how the Blizzard of 2016 compares to historic storms like the Blizzard of 1996 from an economic loss perspective, but the similarities in terms of unique weather phenomena as well as the heavy snowfall amounts across the major Northeastern U.S. cities will keep Jonas in the conversation.
An event like Winter Storm Jonas, coupled with the crippling Boston snowstorms from last year, makes it very important for those of us in the catastrophe risk space to understand its drivers and quantitative impacts. Fortunately, weather forecasting capabilities have improved substantially since the Blizzard of 1996, but its important to further understand the threats that winter storms pose from an insured loss perspective. Please reach out to Sales@rms.com if you are interested in learning more about RMS and our suite of winter storm models.…
At RMS, Ryan is responsible for guiding the insurance market’s understanding and usage of RMS models with a main focus of North America, Southeast Asia and Japan earthquake.
Ryan joined the Model Product Management team at RMS in late 2015 after four years as a Sales Consultant within RMS Client Development. In his current role, he assists the development of RMS model release communications and strategies, and regularly interacts with internal and external industry constituents on RMS model releases, updates, and general model best practices.
Ryan holds a BS in meteorology from Penn State University and an MBA from Rutgers University with concentrations in Global Business and Strategy.