AIR Worldwide Releases Next Generation U.S. Hurricane Model

BOSTON, July 19, 2010 – Catastrophe risk modeling firm AIR Worldwide (AIR) released the latest version of the AIR Hurricane Model for the United States. Version 12.0 includes extensive updates to the hazard and vulnerability components of the model that incorporate the latest science, data, and detailed claims information from recent storms to provide a more comprehensive realistic and detailed view of U.S. hurricane risk. Along with certification by the Florida Commission on Hurricane Loss Projection Methodology, the updated model was independently reviewed by three world-renowned hurricane researchers and six widely respected wind engineers.

“I’m impressed by the level of knowledge and understanding of the AIR research team,” said Dr. Kerry Emanuel, professor, Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“The Version 12.0 update to the AIR U.S. hurricane model incorporates enhancements that encompass virtually every component of the model,” said Dr. Peter Dailey, assistant vice president and director of atmospheric science at AIR Worldwide. “The update sets a new standard for the industry by providing a more complete view of U.S. hurricane risk and a significantly better method for differentiating the risk to properties based on such factors as geography, construction, occupancy, year built, and individual building characteristics.”

Recent research in atmospheric science has enabled wind modeling with unprecedented fidelity and accuracy. The model’s hazard module incorporates improved knowledge of the full 4-D structure of hurricanes, including the development of the storm footprint over time, the rate of the decrease in wind speed moving away from the eye of a hurricane, and the relationship between upper-level and surface winds. The model also captures directional effects of surface friction by explicitly considering the direction of the wind at each location and incorporating the latest United States Geological Survey (USGS) Land Use Land Cover (LULC) data, published in 2007.

“The AIR hurricane wind model generates physically realistic and defensible wind estimates,” according to Dr. Peter Black, senior scientist with Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) at the Naval Research Laboratory in Monterey and former director of the Hurricane Field Program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). “The AIR research team has incorporated the most current research on hurricane structure and state-of-the-science wind observation, leading to robust and accurate estimates of surface winds for a full spectrum of potential events.”

“The AIR research team showed considerable understanding of the current state of the art,” said Robb Contreras, Ph.D., Areté Associates and former “hurricane hunter” associated with the Microwave Remote Sensing Laboratory, University of Massachusetts. “I am equally impressed with AIR’s efforts to engage the hurricane research community, which demonstrates their commitment to providing the most scientifically sound model.”

As evidenced by Hurricane Ike in 2008, inland hurricane losses from some storms can be significant. To better capture inland risk, the model domain has expanded to incorporate three new states — Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri — and now includes 29 states and the District of Columbia. In addition, the methodology for storm track and decay after landfall (or filling) now allows for more variability in the post-landfall evolution of events. While research indicates that re-intensification occurs in less than 5 percent of all landfalling hurricanes, the impact on inland losses can be significant. Version 12.0 captures the possibility of re-intensification of storms after landfall in the model’s catalog of simulated events.

Significant enhancements have also been made to the vulnerability — or damage estimation — component of the model. These improvements were enabled by AIR’s ongoing analysis of an unprecedented quantity of detailed claims data from recent storms; new research into the evolution of building codes, building materials, construction practices and their impact on building vulnerability; recent damage survey data; engineering studies and structural calculations; and extensive literature review.

As a result, damage functions for all construction and occupancy classes have been updated. The model now explicitly captures the evolution of building codes and their enforcement across all hurricane states, which results in more detailed modeling of spatial and temporal variations in damageability. In addition, a coherent approach to modeling the vulnerability of individual buildings better captures the impact of interrelated building characteristics such as roof age, roof type, window protection, and glass percentage. The new vulnerability component also incorporates region-specific “unknown” damage functions (for use when a building’s construction type is not known) and significantly enhanced capabilities for modeling complex industrial facilities, with unique damage functions for more than 400 industrial components.

“The AIR hurricane vulnerability model is a major undertaking that characterizes the building stock in the United States and its response to hurricane winds,” said Dr. Joseph E. Minor, P.E., independent wind engineering consultant. “The engineering and loss analyses contained in the model are extensive and technically sound.”

“This update to the AIR U.S. hurricane model is the culmination of more than three years of research by AIR’s sizable team of scientists and engineers,” continued Dr. Peter Dailey of AIR Worldwide. “The updated model provides a state-of-the-art view of U.S. hurricane risk that will enable insurers, reinsurers, brokers and investors in insurance-linked securities to quantify and manage their risk more effectively.”

The AIR Hurricane Model for the United States is currently available in Version 12.0 of CLASIC/2™, CATRADER®, and CATStation® catastrophe risk management systems.

Other key highlights of the Version 12.0 releases include:

  • updates to the AIR Tropical Cyclone Model for the Caribbean, AIR U.S. Hurricane Model for Offshore Assets, AIR Extratropical Cyclone Model for Europe, AIR Tropical Cyclone Model for Mexico, and AIR Earthquake Model for the United States
  • support for 64-bit versions of Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, and Windows XP to provide additional performance over 32-bit versions (Users that upgrade from a 32-bit operating system to 64-bit on the same hardware can expect a 10 to 40 percent improvement in CLASIC/2 analysis times.)
  • reporting module updates (CATRADER includes a new Catastrophe Bond Summary Report that combines information from the catastrophe bond offering circular with CATRADER loss data.)

About AIR Worldwide
AIR Worldwide (AIR) is the scientific leader and most respected provider of risk modeling software and consulting services. AIR founded the catastrophe modeling industry in 1987 and today models the risk from natural catastrophes and terrorism in more than 50 countries. More than 400 insurance, reinsurance, financial, corporate, and government clients rely on AIR software and services for catastrophe risk management, insurance-linked securities, detailed site-specific wind and seismic engineering analyses, agricultural risk management, and property replacement-cost valuation. AIR is a member of the ISO family of companies and is headquartered in Boston with additional offices in North America, Europe, and Asia. For more information, please visit 

Release: Immediate

Kevin Long (for AIR Worldwide)
AIR Worldwide