UCL News


Real-time damage forecasting service for winter storms is launched

4 January 2006

Real-time forecasts of the localised wind damage that powerful North Atlantic winter storms could inflict on Europe will be available for the first time with the launch of a new weather service developed by UCL (University College London).

The interactive web-based service, EuroTempest, offers local damage forecasts down to postcode level for windstorms threatening seven European countries (United Kingdom, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands) up to five days in advance.

EuroTempest is funded by experts on (re)insurance and loss modelling from Benfield, Royal & SunAlliance and GE Insurance Solutions. The service also includes warnings for the severity and timing of high wind speeds in all other European countries and is freely accessible for the 2005/6 winter storm season at www.eurotempest.com

European windstorms are severe extra-tropical cyclones which usually form in the North Atlantic during winter and track towards northwest Europe. They affect, in particular, the UK and Ireland, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany. After US hurricanes, European winter windstorms rank as the next most expensive cause of global insured loss. The European windstorms Daria (1990), Lothar (1999), Vivian (1990) and the October 1987 storm rank 7th, 8th, 12th and 13th, respectively, on the list of most costly global insurance losses since 1970 (Swiss Re, 2005). European winter storms are also responsible for 70-75 per cent of all European insured losses since 1970.

The innovative tool is aimed primarily at insurers, reinsurers and risk managers and will allow them to monitor threatening windstorms, assess their damage potential and take pre-emptive action. EuroTempest will also benefit decision-making in a wide range of other European industries where business performance is adversely affected by high windspeeds. The service may also be used by members of the public to assess whether they live in an area which is at risk of damage or to rethink travel plans.

Professor Mark Saunders, of the Benfield Hazard Research Centre at UCL and Technical Director of the EuroTempest Consortium, says: "EuroTempest is a breakthrough in the real-time assessment of loss from European windstorms. The venture provides insurers, reinsurers and other industrialists with state-of-the-art information on where and when damaging winds will occur and their potential cost to postcode level. This information will benefit all companies whose business performance is affected by high windspeeds."

EuroTempest provides its unique risk information by using windspeed and pressure forecasts from the UK Met Office's numerical weather prediction models, combined with considerable innovative in-house research and modelling. The EuroTempest forecasts are designed for clarity of information, ease of use and relevant content for (re) insurance and other industries. Two levels of forecast information are provided for the 2005/6 European windstorm season *.

Alan Fowler, Group Reinsurance Director, Royal & SunAlliance Plc said: "As a group we are well aware of the impact of European storms on both our customers and ourselves. We were proud to be part of this project to develop a system that provides tangible benefits in terms of preventing and minimising the costs and disruption caused by major events. This work is a clear demonstration of our organisational aim of differentiating ourselves from our competitors by the development of relevant services for our customers through the combination of industry-leading expertise, technology and processes."

John Moore, Business Director of EuroTempest and Head of Benfield's ReMetrics Natural Hazards team added: "Benfield is delighted to be part of this venture. The uniquely combined capability of this team has begun to address one of the key management issues faced by any business exposed to European storm risk. With the information EuroTempest makes available, users will be able to communicate, plan and respond much more effectively to such events. Underlying the EuroTempest information is an enormous research effort by the team, and we look forward to continuing to develop and expand this capability in the future."


For further information please contact:

Professor Mark Saunders Technical Director, EuroTempest Consortium Benfield Hazard Research Centre, University College London, UK Tel: +44 (0) 1483 204187 mas@mssl.ucl.ac.uk

Jenny Gimpel UCL Media Relations Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 9739 Mobile: +44 (0)7990 675 947 Email: j.gimpel@ucl.ac.uk

Chris Gatland Benfield London, UK Tel: +44 (0) 20 7578 7485 chris.gatland@benfieldgroup.com

Notes to Editors:

* The core features of EuroTempest within each level - all with 24/7 availability - include:

Level 1 (open access forecasts and demonstrations):

Real-time display of the current 5 day forecast high windspeeds over the North Atlantic and European region 35N-65N, 30E-60W (where the forecast 10-minute sustained wind is at least 30mph) using the Met Office's 'Global Model' • Forecasts available as a movie sequence at 3 hourly time steps out to 120 hours lead. • Updated forecasts every 12 hours. • ~80km spatial resolution. • Display includes country-centred zooms and full movie controls on all windspeed sequences. • Demonstrations of the software for windstorm Erwin (January 2005), a recent significant storm event. Includes a forecast 5-day windspeed sequence, and postcode forecasts of maximum wind gusts and potential wind damage.

Level 2 (free forecasts upon registration):

High Resolution Model • Current forecast high windspeeds at high resolution over the North Atlantic and European region 30N-70N, 35E-45W from the Met Office's new 'North Atlantic-European Model'. • Forecasts available as a movie sequence at three hourly time steps out to 36 hours lead • Updated forecasts every 6 hours. • ~20km spatial resolution. • Display includes country-centred zooms and full movie controls on all windspeed sequences.

Maximum Wind Gust and Potential Wind Damage • Postcode forecasts of maximum wind gust and potential wind damage provided for the UK, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands. • Available out to 120 hours lead. • Likelihood of maximum wind gusts of 55mph, 65mph and 75mph displayed. • Potential wind damage shown colour-coded in 5 categories (very minor - severe). • Likelihood of 'minor', 'moderate' and 'major' potential wind damage displayed. • Postcode forecasts of maximum gusts available as a spreadsheet download. • Forecasts updated every 6 hours out to 36 hours lead and every 12 hours at longer leads. • E-Mail alerts by country when forecasts are predicting significant wind damage.

About Benfield; Benfield is the world's leading independent reinsurance and risk intermediary. Its customers include many of the world's major insurance and reinsurance companies as well as government entities and global corporations. Benfield operates from more than 35 locations worldwide. The company is listed on the London Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol BFD. www.benfieldgroup.com

About Royal & SunAlliance: Royal & SunAlliance is one of the world's leading multinational insurance groups. The company writes business in 130 countries and has major operations in the UK, Scandinavia, Canada, Ireland, the Middle East and Latin America. Focusing on general insurance, it has around 26,000 staff and, in 2004, its net written premiums were £5.2bn. With an almost 300-year heritage Royal & SunAlliance is the oldest insurance company in the world still trading under its original name. Within the UK, Royal & SunAlliance is the second largest commercial lines insurer, covering the insurance and risk management needs of a significant number of FTSE 100 companies. www.royalsunalliance.com

About GE Insurance Solutions: GE Insurance Solutions is a leader within the London Market. The company operates from over 40 locations worldwide and offers reinsurance and insurance solutions, writing a comprehensive range of products. GE Insurance Solutions is a group of companies that protects people, property and reputations. With more than $45 billion in combined assets, GE Insurance Solutions is one of the world's leading providers of commercial insurance, reinsurance and risk management services. www.geinsurancesolutions.com

About Benfield Hazard Research Centre: With sixty researchers and practitioners, Benfield Hazard Research Centre is Europe's leading multidisciplinary academic hazard research centre. BHRC comprises three groups: Geological Hazards, Meteorological Hazards & Seasonal Forecasting, and Disaster Studies & Management. The Centre is based at UCL (University College London), one of the world's leading universities and, along with Oxford and Cambridge, one of the UK's top three multi-faculty teaching and research institutions. BHRC is sponsored by Benfield, the world's leading independent reinsurance and risk intermediary. www.benfieldhrc.org