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NOAA, Willis Re sign cooperative research agreement to improve hail damage estimates
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NOAA, Willis Re sign cooperative research agreement to improve hail damage estimates

Contact: Keli Pirtle, 405-325-6933

A June 2012 hail storm in Dallas, TX, caused estimated damages totaling approximately $1 billion in insured losses to cars, aircraft, livestock, and crops. Thousands of similar hail-producing thunderstorms occur across the United States each year, though most cause less damage than the Dallas storm.

In order to improve the accuracy of hail forecasts and enhance risk management practices, NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) in Norman, Okla., and Willis Re, a global a re-insurance intermediary firm and risk advisor based in Minneapolis, Minn., recently signed a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA). NSSL and Willis Re will conduct collaborative research to improve estimates of hail size and coverage, allowing Willis Re to better quantify risks to people, property and agricultural interests.

Currently, NSSL’s hail prediction algorithms estimate the size and area of hail cores aloft between 10,000 and 50,000 feet, which is the typical altitude of weather radar scans. However, the algorithm does not specifically estimate the size of hail at the ground where it can cause the most damage. NSSL researchers will focus on improving estimates of hail size and coverage at the surface through the use of high-resolution verification, environmental wind and storm type information, and new types of radar data. NSSL will also provide expertise in high-resolution validation of severe weather events.

Both parties expect to benefit from the CRADA. Willis Re funds the Willis Research Network (WRN), which supports research to improve the quality of re-insurance and risk management of populations exposed to severe storms. NSSL will be developing enhancements to the hail algorithms based on comparisons to hail insurance claims and Willis Re/WRN will be evaluating the performance of the algorithms. Willis Re and WRN will provide expertise in the development, use, delivery, and feedback of severe weather analysis modeling to the insurance industry.

This collaboration is expected to improve the accuracy of insurance industry estimates of hail damage caused by severe storm events occurring throughout the United States and worldwide.

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