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By Heikki Vesanto​, Manager, GIS data science, LexisNexis Risk Solutions, Insurance, UK and Ireland 

It is 35 years since a powerful storm ravaged the UK with wind gusts of 100mph, causing 18 deaths and leaving chaos and destruction in its path. The Great Storm of 1987 might be over three decades ago, but windstorms are a growing risk due to climate change meaning that insurance professionals must become adept at using geospatial data intelligence to minimise both the financial and emotional cost.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stated that the frequency and intensity of storms, including strong winds and extra-tropical storms, is likely to increase in northern and central Europe. The UK MET office agrees there is strong evidence for a projected increase in intensity in wind storm events across the UK and The Association of British Insurers predicts that future windstorm related insured losses are expected to increase by 18% within the next 100 years. 

Wind storms pose a variety of threats from damage caused by flying objects to catastrophic damage caused by sea surges and coastal erosion. In fact sea levels have increased by an average of 10cm in the past 20 years. While this may not be significant for large parts of the UK, the impact will be multiplied by storm surges with potential for topping of coastal defences. DEFRA estimates that a 35cm increase in sea level will lead to a 50 to 150% increase in the overtopping of current coastal flood defences posing a risk to many coastal communities. 

As a consequence, the demand for granular level geospatial data on wind storm risks is growing and becoming a key component of property insurance pricing at the point of quote. To give insurance providers a total view of the environmental risk, this data can now be viewed alongside flood, fire, subsidence and crime data, on demand from one source alongside over 40 other data enrichment datasets including property characteristics data, for streamlined quoting. 

Wind storm modelling based on the average gust speed in a postcode, can help predict damage to roofs and trees falling onto properties. Also, knowing whether a property faces prevailing winds, or is on the exposed side of a hillside are considerations insurance providers need to make when assessing storm risk

Knowing which customers have been affected by a storm also means interim payments and insurance claims can be expedited. Data on severe weather events is only going to get richer and deeper: in time, satellite and drone data feeds may bring a further granularity to the understanding of risk. 

By overlaying different datasets in a geospatial mapping solution like LexisNexis® Map View, insurance providers are much more aware of the impact of wind storms than they were in the past. With access to much more live and relevant data than ever before, they can gain a constant and instant view of risk, whatever the weather. 

There’s no doubt that the weather is altering rapidly and as such, the high-risk events associated with climate change are increasing in frequency and severity. The reliance on data to help insurance professionals predict, price and mitigate environmental risks can only grow. It is therefore the job of data, analytics and technology providers to the insurance sector such as ourselves to help ensure that the most accurate data is at their fingertips to offer greater protection to consumers and businesses in the face of some of the world’s most damaging natural hazards.

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