New Models Aim to Better Predict Storm Surge, Insured Losses From Hurricanes

By Insurance Journal staff | June 2, 2023

Two new hurricane forecast models promise to help property owners and insurers better predict the losses from storms that may be increasing in intensity as ocean waters continue to warm.

The National Hurricane Center announced just ahead of the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season that it had improved its Probabilistic Storm Surge model to version 3.0, which will provide coastal surge predictions up to three days in advance. That’s an improvement over the two-day warning that officials had previously used.

“It’s a big upgrade,” NHC storm surge specialist, Cody Fritz, told National Public Radio last week.

The system, which combines wind and storm tracks with new data on vegetation in the storm’s path, also allows surge modeling for the first time for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which have been hard-hit by storms in recent years.

The changes don’t come a day too soon, officials said.

“We are seeing a sharp increase in catastrophic storm surge impacts in our coastal communities,” Ken Graham, director of NOAA’s National Weather Service, said in a statement. “Our new capabilities to effectively and accurately model and forecast storm surge (are) critical to upholding the NWS mission of protection of life and property.”

More about the P-surge model can be seen here.

Also, Aon, the global data analytics firm, on Thursday unveiled a new computer model and forecasting system that allows insurers to better assess portfolio losses as soon as a hurricane’s landfall point becomes clear.

The Auto Event Response program combines NHC data with up to 10 academically reviewed models to produce real-time impacts on exposed properties, Aon Managing Director Daniel Hartung explained in a webinar.

The system, which examines properties in a storm’s actual path, rather than basing losses on simulations or probabilistic forecasts, can produce a “quantifiable loss estimate at various granularities,” he said.

It also provides a better idea of the actual wind speeds as hurricanes move inland and decay, he said. A report will be delivered automatically via email to subscribers, within an hour of a forecast update.

A new version of Aon’s Impact Forecasting, an enhanced hurricane model, is now being reviewed by the Florida Hurricane Commission, Aon’s Will Skinner said.

Top photo: Mud and debris surround damaged homes after Hurricane Ida in Ironton, La., on Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. Weather extremes like this — as well as drought, wildfire, flooding and diminishing air quality will increase in frequency and intensity in North America the coming years as global warming accelerates, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. (David Grunfeld/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate via AP)

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