Dorian looks set to pass over the northern Bahamas in the coming days as
potentially a Category 5 major hurricane, but forecasts regarding future U.S.
impacts remain significantly uncertain, with the latest guidance providing a
twist in the tale that no one anticipated a few days ago.
Understanding the Uncertainty: A Matter of Timing
The meteorological situation that Hurricane Dorian finds itself in is as fascinating as it is uncertain. Several days ago, Florida was bracing itself for potentially its third major hurricane landfall in as many years. Now, Dorian looks more likely to make landfall in the Carolinas, or, as some models increasingly suggest, it may recurve soon enough that is misses the U.S. entirely. So, why have the forecasts been so uncertain? It’s all to do with timing.
Every twist and
turn of a real-time hurricane can affect global financial markets, public
safety, or government and international aid agencies that provide assistance. Within
the (re)insurance space, the ability to understand forecast track, timing, and potential
hazard and loss impacts before landfall helps entities to prepare and execute
their event response processes effectively. This includes having adequate
capital to cover claims, setting up claim centers and planning policyholder
outreach, securing and positioning adjusters in areas that are likely to be
impacted, and determining what, if any, risk can be ceded to reinsurance or
clients, the traditional approach to quantify potential impacts ahead of a
landfalling storm involves selecting similar storms from the RMS® North
Atlantic Hurricane (NAHU) stochastic event set. While this generates vital
insights that can be extracted quickly from internal databases, there are
opportunities to provide earlier and more comprehensive insights into the storm
ahead of landfall.
To date, RMS clients have also benefited from real-time analysis of hurricane events through RMS HWind Real-Time Analysis products. These observation data-based snapshots and footprints have provided the industry with a standard “ground truth” representation of tropical cyclone wind field size and intensity before, during, and following landfall effectively helping to describe what the storm is doing and what the storm has done.