Hurricane Wind Speed Can Predict Economic Losses

Hurricane Isaac

Every hurricane season, from June 1 through November 30, we’re reminded that hurricanes are a force to be reckoned with, particularly when they make landfall in densely populated areas like Bermuda. In the wake of such a storm, local governments, businesses, homeowners and—of course—insurance companies are left trying to assess the damage and assign a final price tag to recovery and rebuilding efforts. Rick Murnane, Risk Prediction Initiative (RPI) Project Manager and Senior Research Scientist at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS), recently published a study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters that may serve as an important tool in streamlining these efforts.

When asked about the accuracy of the model, Dr. Murnane explained that it correctly estimated the economic costs of Hurricane Irene, which made landfall in New York, New Jersey, and the outer banks of North Carolina in 2011. He is quick to point out that, due to the data set used in the study, the “5% per meter/second” relationship is specific only to hurricanes that make landfall in the U.S. According to Dr. Murnane, “other regions would have different characteristics (e.g., roughness of the terrain and exposure of buildings). As a result, further analysis is required to determine if similar relationships apply for other coastlines.”

Understanding the factors that contribute to hurricane-related economic losses is of keen interest to the general public, commercial sector, and government, particularly as climate scientists warn that hurricanes may increase in frequency and/or intensity due to global warming. Dr. Murnane notes that, “Our findings support the view that changes in property exposure will likely dominate increases in future losses and emphasize the importance of proper building codes and code enforcement.”

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