Insurance research paper confirms suspected hurricane activity link
Lloyd's.com, Feb 13, 2008
According to new research by the Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre (BUHRC), sea surface warming contributes significantly to increased Atlantic hurricane activity.
In the study published in the scientific journal Nature Professor Mark Saunders and Dr Adam Lea from BUHRC and based at the Department of Space and Climate Physics at University College London, reveal the current sensitivity of tropical Atlantic hurricane activity to sea surface warming is large, with a 0.5°C increase in sea surface temperature being associated with a 40% increase in activity and frequency.
They found that local sea surface warming was responsible for approximately 40% of the increase in Atlantic hurricane activity between 1996 and 2005, relative to the 1950-2000 average. Their research focuses on storms that account for 85-90% of the hurricanes that make landfall in the
The paper supports confirmation of the link between sea surface temperature and rising hurricane frequency, says Trevor Maynard, Manager of Emerging Risks in Lloyd's Exposure Management team.
This study is the latest in a long chain of research that quantifies the impact of sea temperatures on hurricane frequency, Maynard said.
BUHRC used a statistical model based on two environmental variables: local sea surface temperature; and an atmospheric wind field which replicated 75-80% of the variance in tropical Atlantic hurricane activity between 1965 and 2005. By removing the influence of the winds from the model the team was able to assess the contribution of sea surface temperature.
Professor Saunders, who is also Head of Weather and Climate at BUHRC, said that the analysis does not attempt to identify whether greenhouse gas-induced warming contributed to the increase in water temperature. It is important that climate models are able to reproduce the observed relationship between hurricane activity and sea surface temperature, so improving their reliability to model how hurricane activity will be affected by climate change.
Other studies, particularly those of James B. Elsner at
Paul Budde, Executive Vice President and Head of the Product Development and Applied Research team at Benfield ReMetrics in the
Trevor Maynard says the findings are important because they give further weight to the argument that the level of hurricane risk has changed in the
In its 360 risk project, Lloyds stated that as climate change causes temperatures to rise further, insurers should be prepared for increased frequency of extreme storms not just in the
BUHRC is predicting an active Atlantic hurricane season in 2008 with Atlantic basin and