January 24, 2007 Brown Bag

Hurricane impacts on the personal scale: Meteorology meets the rest of the world

Dr. Jenni L. Evans
Department of Meteorology
Penn State

The repercussions of Hurricane Andrew (1992) continue until today in Florida. The losses due to Andrew caused changes in building codes and also caused a sea change in the insurance industry: the industry was caught short by the immense damage bill (near $30 billion) and many companies simply disappeared. In response, the industry has moved from setting insurance rates by actuarial judgement alone, to incorporating risk models. These numerical models are developed by private companies employing experts in relevant fields. This offers new opportunities for meteorologists, since hurricanes are not the only weather related phenomena of interest. Since the risk models are proprietary, their use provides new challenges to insurance regulators - so meteorologists are also needed here. In this talk I will present a meteorologist's eye-view of this process, broadly describing the development of these risk models and their regulation. The suggested reading outlines the fundamentals of the risk models and raises some questions regarding regulation. One goal of this discussion will be to discuss questions relating to the insurance of risk and the balance between personal and societal responsibility.

Watson Jr., C. C., and Johnson, M. E., Hurricane loss estimation models, Bull. Amer. Met. Soc., 85, 1713-1726, 2004.