Our seas and sky act together to warm the Earth’s surface to habitable temperatures and level out the perpetual imbalance in solar radiation received at the Equator and the poles. But because both systems convey such a massive amount of energy, they are also the wellspring of many of the most important perils that endanger life and property. And now that we humans have altered substantially the makeup of both the atmosphere and the ocean, we should not expect them to act the same in the future as they have in the past.
The Weather & Climate Hub continues to help chart the course for research on the Earth’s climate system at WTW and connect our colleagues and clients with top-tier experts in meteorology, climatology, and natural hazards. Our research portfolio is also expanding to understand and anticipate the social and economic effects of both sudden weather-related disasters, and chronic environmental problems caused, or made worse, by climate change. On top of all that, our team is looking beyond physical hazards to diagnose potential pitfalls along the road to carbon neutrality and Net Zero emissions and to survey the emerging landscapes of climate law and liability.
Owing to WTW’s origins in the insurance and reinsurance industries, our Hub sponsors an impressive roster of projects directed at severe storms. Together with our academic and government partners, we are building better physical models for tropical cyclones, creating new methods to gauge the risks of tornado outbreaks and extreme windstorms, and mapping the prospect of severe hailstorms over the entire globe. We are also working to identify novel threats to human health such as dangerously high heat, and to leverage expertise in weather prediction to produce advance warnings of impending food insecurity, particularly those affecting children.
Many weather- and climate-related perils are also strongly intertwined and can combine to damage critical infrastructure or delay operations. Heavy rains from hurricanes can oversaturate soils and make rugged terrain more vulnerable to landslides. Drought that persists for several years will shrink water supplies and reduce agricultural productivity, but it can also set the stage for dust storms or wildfires later. New and ongoing research supported by our Hub is helping to meet the unique challenge of managing a disparate suite of perils in an increasingly correlated world.
Side by side our views on physical risks, the Weather & Climate Hub is widening its interests to consider the challenges and opportunities spun off by the leap to a greener, less carbon-intensive economy. Our first foray into transition risk has focused on efforts to decarbonize the global aviation system. We are also assisting financial institutions acting to align their investments with mitigation and adaptation goals and are enthusiastically cultivating new research partnerships on that topic.
Finally, our team is excited to support new research on the present and future risks of litigation tied to climate change. More and more commonly, parties that have suffered losses due to climate change are seeking redress from those they believe to be liable. But many organizations don’t know where to begin to assess their exposure to climate litigation. Early in 2023, WTW will release a comprehensive report that will review key regulatory mandates related to climate liability and outline how industry can assess and reduce its climate litigation risk.
Thinking ahead, the Weather and Climate Hub will continue to buttress WTW’s position as a global leader in risk solutions. We are preparing new projects that will weave together long-range climate forecasts and near-term weather simulations to yield more realistic predictions of conditions on the ground for the next 5, 10, or 20 years. We also plan closer coordination with our Earth Risks and Flood & Water Management hubs so we can better anticipate the potential threats of co-occurring or compounding risks from natural catastrophes.
What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?”F. Sherwood Roland | University of California, Irvine
Through his research, the late Sherwood Roland – awarded the Nobel Prize for discovering that Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gases damaged the ozone layer – made clear that science is obligated to not only put a name to problems but also to cultivate effective and actionable solutions. Thanks to recent and spectacular progress in meteorology, climatology, and their cognate disciplines, we now have at hand a remarkable array of tools to predict weather- and climate-related hazards and moderate their effects. In the coming year, it will be our privilege to support all work by WTW and our research partners aimed at guarding against catastrophe and preparing for life on a warmer world.
Understanding global wind and rain risks due to tropical cyclones
|Weather and Climate Risks