3.3 The ICAT Damage Estimator

Wednesday, 26 January 2011: 2:00 PM
604 (Washington State Convention Center)
Kevin Joseph Sharp, ICAT, Boulder, CO

Damage from tropical cyclones has increased drastically in the United States over the last century. Studies have shown that this can primarily be attributed to changes in societal conditions rather than changes in tropical cyclone activity or intensity. Inflation, population growth, and greater wealth per capita have led to an increasingly susceptible America. Historical storms can be put in the context of today's societal conditions through normalization of the data. Normalization allows us to estimate the impact of a historical tropical cyclone if it were to make landfall today. Ranking the most damaging storms after normalization shows which historical tropical cyclones would likely be the most costly today. Normalized data from individual storms can also be combined so that seasonal analyses are possible. Roger Pielke Jr. et al. (2008) have created a normalized record of all U.S. landfalling tropical cyclones since 1900.

ICAT, a catastrophe insurance company based in Boulder, Colorado, worked in conjunction with Roger Pielke Jr. et al. (2008) to create the ICAT Damage Estimator (IDE) (http://www.icatdamageestimator.com). The IDE is a free, open source, web-based tool that can be used to select and display historical U.S. landfalling tropical cyclones with non-normalized and normalized damage data. There are numerous ways to select historical storms based on a user's criteria. Selection options include, but are not limited to, landfall state, category, year, month, and coastal segment. The IDE provides data for each individual storm, as well as damage statistics for the user's selection of multiple storms. When there is an active tropical cyclone in the Atlantic, the IDE can select historical storms based on criteria that relate to the current storm. For example, when there is a landfall forecast in the National Hurricane Center (NHC) five-day cone, the IDE can display all historical storms that have made landfall within the current forecast cone. It can also select historical landfalling storms that passed within a user defined distance of the storm's current position.

The IDE uses an interactive embedded form of Google Maps to display selected storm tracks and intensities. Damage statistics and a histogram of the selected storms are displayed graphically while meteorological and damage data are displayed in spreadsheet format. There is also an option to export data to Google Earth, a spreadsheet file, email, or printable format. The IDE is a unique tool that combines NHC HURDAT data with the normalized damage record in a way that allows the general public to easily select, display, and analyze historical storms in the context of today's societal conditions. The IDE was created to “be a useful tool to media sources, local, state, and federal public officials, the scientific and academic community, the insurance and reinsurance industries, and to other interested individuals.”

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