Willis Taps into Supercomputer to Analyze Climate Change, Nat Cats

February 13, 2007

The Willis Research Network (WRN) “has joined forces with internationally renowned universities to harness the immense power of the NEC Earth Simulator in Yokohama, Japan to help insurers understand the frequency and severity of natural catastrophes in the face of climate change,” said a company announcement.

“The ability to use the Earth Simulator in conjunction with the expertise of the WRN and its partners, focussed for the first time on the direct needs of the insurance industry, marks a major step from global modeling towards regional and local impact and promises to be of profound significance to the international reinsurance and insurance industry,” it continued.

Willis said that over the next three years its WRN facility “will work with teams of researchers in Japan and the UK to help apply the Earth Simulator to the needs of the Japanese and international insurance market across a range of hazards.” The program’s ultimate goal “is to provide improved inputs into catastrophe models and realistic disaster scenarios giving underwriters much greater confidence in understanding future risk across key regions and weather perils.”

Willis explained that the “Earth Simulator, one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, is used to run the Hadley Centre’s climate model, HadGEM, under the UK-Japan Climate Collaboration (UJCC). The University of Reading’s Walker Institute and the Met Office Hadley Centre are both involved and the whole project is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The Hadley Centre’s model has provided major inputs into the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.

“Recently UJCC scientists have performed climate simulations with HadGEM at unprecedented detail, enabling the study of important processes, such as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), and of climate extremes, such as cyclones, typhoons and hurricanes.”

WRN Chairman Rowan Douglas commented: “We are just reaching the stage where the power of this immense computer platform, coupled with improvements in simulation techniques and climate modeling allow us to model regional weather and extreme events rather than just the mean climate. This has profound implications for insurers. It opens the possibility for the insurance market to better prepare for the level of events that may arise from climate change.”

Professor Julia Slingo of the Walker Institute and NERC’s National Centre for Atmospheric Science, added: “Being able to use the Earth Simulator has had a huge impact on our climate research and allowed us to begin to address questions such as the likely frequency and severity of typhoons and hurricanes under climate change scenarios. We are seeing, for the first time, the importance of resolving these types of weather systems on many aspects of climate, including El Niño. There is no doubt that in the next few years the increased skill of our models, as a result of being able to work with the Earth Simulator, will lead to improved seasonal forecasts and climate change projections, both of significant value to the insurance industry.”

Vinay Mistry, Manager of Lloyd’s Exposure Management, speaking for the insurance industry, stated: “We welcome joint international research endeavors such as the Earth Simulator project. Further insights into the complex interactions within the climatic system will ultimately help the insurance industry to better understand atmospheric hazard and inform portfolio management strategies.”

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.