Researchers: Climate Change Expected to Increase Storm Activity in Texas

January 22, 2010

Climate change will likely increase the frequency and severity of storm activity in Texas, an area of the country that is especially vulnerable to the “triple threat” of hurricanes, hail storms and tornadoes, weather researchers said at a conference at Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business sponsored by the Willis Research Network.

The Willis Research Network, part of Willis Group Holdings, the global insurance broker, is a public-private partnership between Willis and a number of global scientific research institutions.

Speaking at the conference, Dr. Harold Brooks of the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) said that straight-line winds – the violent air currents that usually accompany thunderstorms and are produced when areas of low and high pressure collide – represent a growing threat to homes and businesses. Compared with hurricanes, tornadoes and, to a lesser extent, hail, such winds are a relatively small contributor to structural damage at present, he said, but as the climate changes, NSSL researchers believe these events will become more frequent and therefore contribute more significantly to overall damage.

“Based on what we know about the potential patterns of climate change, we expect severe storm activity to increase in Texas and the Midwest, including higher activity of straight-line winds with potentially damaging effects,” Dr. Brooks said.

One way to mitigate against storm damage is to build stronger buildings. According to the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS), better building performance can be assured by spending a few percent more on construction that goes beyond the minimum building code requirements.

Insurance companies can play a significant role in motivating property owners through incentives to retrofit their properties with enhanced roofing materials, shutters, proper garage bracing, soffit strengthening and other enhancements that will reduce the likelihood of severe damage, according to IBHS. This could save the average home/business owner thousands of dollars in costs associated with being unable to use the property for weeks or months while it is being repaired, as well as saving insurance companies millions of dollars on insurance claims.

Source: Willis Research Network,

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