Articles | Volume 15, issue 4
Research article
09 Apr 2015
Research article |  | 09 Apr 2015

Comparison of storm damage functions and their performance

B. F. Prahl, D. Rybski, O. Burghoff, and J. P. Kropp

Abstract. Winter storms are the most costly natural hazard for European residential property. We compare four distinct storm damage functions with respect to their forecast accuracy and variability, with particular regard to the most severe winter storms. The analysis focuses on daily loss estimates under differing spatial aggregation, ranging from district to country level. We discuss the broad and heavily skewed distribution of insured losses posing difficulties for both the calibration and the evaluation of damage functions. From theoretical considerations, we provide a synthesis between the frequently discussed cubic wind–damage relationship and recent studies that report much steeper damage functions for European winter storms. The performance of the storm loss models is evaluated for two sources of wind gust data, direct observations by the German Weather Service and ERA-Interim reanalysis data. While the choice of gust data has little impact on the evaluation of German storm loss, spatially resolved coefficients of variation reveal dependence between model and data choice. The comparison shows that the probabilistic models by Heneka et al. (2006) and Prahl et al. (2012) both provide accurate loss predictions for moderate to extreme losses, with generally small coefficients of variation. We favour the latter model in terms of model applicability. Application of the versatile deterministic model by Klawa and Ulbrich (2003) should be restricted to extreme loss, for which it shows the least bias and errors comparable to the probabilistic model by Prahl et al. (2012).

Short summary
Winter storms are the most costly natural hazard for European residential property. Their costs can be assessed via damage functions relating storm intensity to loss. However, the heavy-tailed loss distribution and the high uncertainty pose difficulties for their application. We address these difficulties by comparing four empirical damage functions and providing model recommendations. In a broader context, we discuss the shape of the damage functions in the light of theoretical considerations.
Final-revised paper