Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Satellite survey of Elbe flood helps Swiss Re insure for disaster

27.10.2005


One of the worst disasters to hit Europe in the last decade has served as a case study to investigate how satellite images can improve insurance risk modelling. Following the project’s end, reinsurance giant Swiss Re has added Earth Observation products to its comprehensive catastrophe database for the first time.



The three-week flooding of the Elbe River in August 2002 saw water levels reach 150-year highs across parts of Central and Eastern Europe. Numerous urban centres including Dresden and Prague were inundated and the resulting insurance claims were in the multi-million Euro range.

The disaster highlighted the need for enhanced river flood modelling, and with dramatic satellite images acquired during the event, led to interest in the view from above provided by Earth Observation satellites to document flood events and better assess future flood danger.


As part of an ESA Earth Observation Market Development project commencing in 2002, this catastrophic event was used as the basis of an sample exploratory service targeting the insurance sector, with two Earth Observation service companies - SERTIT in Strasbourg, France and VISTA in Munich, Germany - delivering products and services for evaluation by Swiss Re, the number two in global re-insurance.

It is common knowledge the world can be a risky place: the insurance industry has to judge precisely how risky, in order to set appropriate prices for its policies.

Accurately assessing the likelihood of household accidents or individual fires is comparatively simple. The challenge comes in setting pricing for major natural catastrophes. These disasters may take place frequently on a global basis, but occur extremely rarely within a single locality – although they cause great damage when they do, enough to potentially ruin any single direct insurance company.

That is where reinsurance firms comes in: they basically sell insurance to the insurers, taking on responsibility for catastrophic risks such as earthquakes, cyclones or floods – the latter being the world’s single most costly natural disaster category.

"We underwrite insurance companies’ catastrophic risks, and so we take a special interest in natural perils," said Dr. Ulruich Ebel of Swiss Re’s Natural Perils research department. "We have more than 20 scientists working on different aspects of natural hazards.

"Tracing and monitoring the big events gives us a business advantage and keeps our clients and stakeholders better informed. The main questions we tackle are the likely size and magnitude of such disasters, what losses they might cause, and do we charge the right prices for the policies we sell?"

Precise cataloguing of past disasters and the insurance losses they incurred is part of their duties, but the centre also carries out risk modelling with sophisticated software systems simulating all possible events that could occur within a sufficiently long time period, stretching across thousands or tens of thousands of virtual years, to better estimate the cost of average and extreme loss burdens.

"We also make use of the actual damages claimed by direct insurances to improve risk modelling," Ebel added. "However in the aftermath of events such as the 2002 Elbe flood this requires an intense effort, very expensive for routine application.

"Instead Earth Observation gives us a view of the whole extent of the flood, not only within the heavily-insured urban centres like Dresden but we can also zoom out across 400 kilometres of river to see all the affected parts of Germany. We can also trace the flood peak happening. It would take a lot of work to get the same standard of information from any other source.

"The products delivered by our project partners enable us to improve our modelling in this area. By documenting the course of the last flood we can better simulate future flood events. We can also match the images to land-use maps, and assess risk down to the scale of individual postcodes, the satellite imagery showing us what percentage of a given postcode has been flooded."

Ebel added he saw potential for Earth Observation in other areas of natural perils, giving the example of serious forest damage in Southern Sweden due to a winter storm in January this year.

Earth Observation data gathered on the Elbe flood has been added this month to Swiss Re’s CatNet online database, which supplies client insurance companies and others with comprehensive information on worldwide hazards and potential risk exposure.

The activity has been carried out as part of a Flood Plain Monitoring project within ESA’s EOMD Programme, aimed at strengthening European and Canadian capacities for the provision of geo-information services based mainly on Earth Observation data.

To find out more about using Earth Observation for flood mapping or further opportunities with EOMD, please contact eomd@esa.int .

Mariangela D’Acunto | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esa.int/esaEO/SEMR8C6Y3EE_economy_0.html

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Attoseconds break into atomic interior

A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.

In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...

Im Focus: Good vibrations feel the force

A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.

By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Basque researchers turn light upside down

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator

23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Attoseconds break into atomic interior

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>