Helen Greatrex

(Columbia University)

Meteorological research for parametric weather insurance

What Graduate HOMEPAGE Meteo Colloquium
When Oct 31, 2018
from 03:30 pm to 04:30 pm
Where 112 Walker Building, John Cahir Auditorium
Contact Name David Titley
Contact email
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Helen Greatrex Columbia

Weather and climate shocks have a disproportionate impact on the rural poor, especially on the millions who rely on rain-fed agriculture.  Poor infrastructure and a lack of coping mechanisms lead to the deaths of thousands each year from hazards such as droughts or floods.  Equally, the threat of such an event happening caps productive investment and prevents millions more from climbing out of poverty.  Insurance is a financial tool designed to protect consumers from such a situation, but the complexities of loss assessment and the scale of smallholder farming make it difficult to scale across many parts of the world. 

Parametric, or index-based, weather insurance has recently generated attention as a financial tool which is designed to overcome many of these issues, potentially allowing widespread protection from climate risk. Similar to weather derivatives, rather than compensation being triggered by measured damage, index insurance products trigger when some externally measured proxy, such as wind speed or rainfall amount, crosses a pre-defined threshold.  Tens of millions are now covered by agricultural weather-based index products, from entire countries down to individual farms.  The use of remote sensing, especially satellite rainfall, have allowed many of these programmes to scale to a size that might meaningfully impact poverty. 

The development of parametric insurance provides an interesting challenge from a meteorological perspective, encompassing questions about the varying spatiotemporal scales of rainfall, drought and human hazard; the links between rainfall and crop yield; the impact of climate trends; the probabilistic propagation of uncertainty; the role of different satellite products; and context specific validation.  This seminar will chart progress in this field of research, focusing particularly on examples in sub-Saharan Africa.