Decadal variations of European windstorms: linking research to insurance applications
- Stormwise Ltd, Luton, LU4 9DU, United Kingdom
Abstract. The insurance sector is affected by decadal-scale variations in annual European windstorm losses amounting to a few billion euros, yet has not applied recent advances in understanding and predicting this variability to their pricing of windstorm risk. This is mainly due to an unknown relation between insured wind losses and meteorological definitions of storminess used in research. This study aimed to reduce this uncertainty.
A history of windstorm insurance losses over the past 72 years was developed from winds in weather reanalyses. Then, typical storm proxies used by researchers, such as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and the Arctic Oscillation, were compared to the new windstorm loss record. The relationship between the proxies and losses has two distinct regimes: highly consistent from 1950 up to the 2000s, then a divergence in the past 10 to 15 years. The recent separation is large and robust, with high confidence that modern values of researchers’ proxies approach levels last seen 30 years ago, whereas decadal-mean losses are far lower today than in the 1980s and ‘90s.
The cause of this divergence was explored. Storm damages are most closely associated with peak gusts deriving their momentum from winds in the free troposphere, and pressure gradients at the surface used in typical climate indices can only partially describe higher level winds. Based on this reasoning, a new Hemispheric Geostrophy Index (HGI) was defined as the difference in 700 hPa heights between the tropics and the Arctic. It was found to vary coherently with decadal losses in the past, and crucially retains this consistency in the past 15 years too. Breaking down the HGI into component parts revealed that lower storminess in recent times is linked to ongoing reductions in poleward baroclinicity. Further development of loss history and climate indices would help bridge decadal research to insurance applications.
Viewed (geographical distribution)