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European winter storms: traditional perils posing new challenges

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Aon Benfield has issued a briefing on uncommon European winter storm tracks in conjunction with the University of Cologne. The research points to a lower total number of events in the future but indicates intense storms moving over the North and Baltic Seas towards Eastern Europe, following a similar path to windstorm Kyrill.

In recent years, Europe has witnessed major damage from winter storms Klaus, Kyrill and Xynthia which followed uncommon tracks. These travelled eastwards and on a lower latitude than usual along the edge of the dominant North Atlantic storm track.

Dr Joaquim Pinto from the Institute of Geophysics and Meteorology at the University of Cologne – part of Aon Benfield Research’s academic and industry collaboration – explains: “Scientific research shows that the storm climate in Europe has changed considerably over the past 130 years, exhibiting decadal periods of high and low activity. The last decade was characterized by average or calm conditions, following a period of strong activity which peaked during the early nineties. The occurrence of recent storms like Klaus, Kyrill and Xynthia are therefore considered to be a part of the climate system’s natural variability.”

Dr Adam Podlaha, international head of Impact Forecasting, commented: “Central and Eastern Europe’s insurance market penetration continues to grow, resulting in a gradual increase in exposure. While the meteorology may remain mostly unchanged, losses in the near future might increase, thus heightening the appetite for understanding the risks to the region.”

Dr Alexandros Georgiadis, catastrophe model developer at Impact Forecasting, added: “Existing catastrophe models only partially capture the climatological variability of European windstorms. The next generation of catastrophe models must address these challenges as model developers expand coverage into new European territories, responding to higher insurance market penetration in Central and Eastern Europe.”

In response, Impact Forecasting, Aon Benfield’s catastrophe model development centre of excellence, and the University of Cologne are working together to create a pan-European windstorm model. Using the latest research and data, the model will generate the most comprehensive loss estimations and allow detailed analysis of the impact of extreme windstorms on re/insurers’ European portfolios.

Source : Aon Benfield Press Release