The insurance industry is undergoing a demographic transformation, with retirements looming and an urgent need for new talent to fill the ranks.1 It’s a recruiting challenge of the first order, made more difficult still by the very low awareness among students of career opportunities in the insurance industry.2
The Verisk Emerging Issues Team collaborated with students and faculty at Illinois State University on a rather explosive topic: Coronal mass ejections.
To help nurture interest in insurance and risk management, the Verisk Emerging Issues team has been working closely with students and faculty at several universities. Through this effort, students have the opportunity to study interesting emerging issues under the guidance of their faculty and the Emerging Issues team. Their work has been presented during Verisk webinars and published on the Emerging Issues website (log-in required).
The most recent collaboration, with students and faculty at Illinois State University (ISU), focused on a rather explosive topic: Coronal mass ejections.
The staggering costs of a solar eruption
Coronal mass ejections are explosions of charged particles from the Sun. One such eruption, in 1859, packed the power 10 billion atomic bombs.3 At the time, the eruption knocked out telegraphs and illuminated the night sky with auroras so bright that they tricked animals into thinking it was daytime. 4
It sounds cinematic, but if a solar eruption of similar magnitude were to happen today, the ISU students discovered that the results could be catastrophic.
A coronal mass ejection that bathed the world in charged particles could seriously damage electrical grids, potentially making them inoperable, and thus initiating a “choose your own misadventure” of cascading catastrophes: Businesses failing, infrastructure damaged, home heating and cooling systems failing and pipes bursting, food and medication spoiling in lifeless refrigerators—the list goes on.
The damage could stretch skyward, too. Satellites buffeted by solar particles could experience failure and systems that rely on satellites, such as global positioning systems and communications networks, could also fail. If satellites in low-Earth orbit are damaged, they could simply fall out of the sky.
As part of their extensive research, the ISU students also estimated the potential insured losses that could follow a coronal ejection and its attendant disruption. Spoiler alert: They’re massive.
Fortunately, forewarned is forearmed, and the student researchers also identified several steps we can take that could mitigate the risk of future solar ejections, such as improving our early detection of such events and hardening the electrical grid to the kinds of electromagnetic pulses produced by those ejections.
To learn more about the potential consequences of a coronal mass ejection for property/casualty insurers, please read “Quantifying the Financial and Insurance Implications of Solar Weather.” If you’re a student or faculty member that wants to learn more about working with the Verisk Emerging Issues team, please email me at Andrew.Blancher@verisk.com.
This article was based on the research conducted by Nutcha Jitchanvichai, Matthew Miller, and Amanda Pinkham of Illinois State University, under the guidance of James Jones, Executive Director, Center for Risk Management, Insurance, and Financial Services.