FSU Model Designed to Better Gauge Tornado Risk

Model Corrects Population Bias But Raises Qs about Storm Intensity

Are tornadoes increasing in both intensity and frequency, or could skewed historical data lead to false conclusions?

This question has vexed climatologists and P&C insurers alike amid the escalating reports of twisters when compared to the previous 15 to 20 years. But researchers at Florida State University (FSU) may have answers, thanks to a model they developed to more accurately gauge tornado risk.

The pioneering researchers provide an overview of the model in “The Decreasing Population Bias in Tornado Reports across the Central Plains,” an article in Weather, Climate, and Society, an academic journal published by the American Meteorological Society. In addition to outlining the methodology, the team offers a plausible explanation as to the discrepancy in confirmed reports: namely, a population bias, coupled with the proliferation of storm chasers and recreational risk-takers roaming Tornado Alley.

Having long suspected that tornadoes were traditionally underreported in rural areas especially, James B. Elsner (a geography professor at FSU) and fellow co-authors—Lauren E. Michaels (graduate student), Kelsey N. Scheitlin, an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and Ian J. Elsner, a graduate student at the University of Florida—say the perceived uptick in tornado activity is deceiving.

“Most estimates of tornado risk are probably too low because they are based on the reported number of tornadoes,” Elsner says. “Our research can help better quantify the actual risk of a tornado. This will help with [enhancing] building codes and emergency awareness.”

More data is readily available today, partially because storm of advances in reporting technology, including mobile Internet and GPS navigating systems, along with greater public awareness.

The Science of Tornadoes

It's also important to note that this new research will help propel the scientific exploration of tornadoes, Elsner explains. "The science of tornadoes can move forward to address questions related to whether cities enhance or inhibit tornadoes,” he says.

The model corrects assumptions about reporting in urban and rural areas and, for the most part, dispels the notion that tornadoes are occurring with greater frequency. However, researchers add that some evidence portends more powerful (and therefore destructive) tornadoes.

"The risk of violent tornadoes appears to be increasing,” Elsner said in a statement, citing the tornadoes in Oklahoma City on May 31 and the 2011 tornadoes in Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala.

The Oklahoma City tornado on May 31, 2013, was the largest tornado ever recorded, with a path of destruction measuring 2.6 miles in width. The Tuscaloosa and Joplin tornadoes are two of the deadliest and most expensive natural disasters in recent U.S. history.


Page 1 of 2

Resource Center

View All »

Integrated Content & Communications: A Key Business Issue For Insurers

Insurers are renewing their focus on top line growth, and many are learning that growth...

High Risk Insurance Coverage in the E&S Market

Experts discuss market conditions, trends and projected growth in a rapidly changing niche.

Top E-Signature Security Requirements

This white paper covers the most important security features to look for when evaluating e-signatures...

EPLI Programs Crafted Just For Your Clients

Bring us your restaurant clients, associations and other groups and we’ll help you win more...

Is It Time To Step Up And Own An Agency?

Download this eBook for insight on how to determine if owning an agency is right...

Claims - The Good The Bad And The Ugly

Fraudulent claims cost the industry and the public thousands of dollars in losses. This article...

Leveraging BI for Improved Claims Performance and Results

If claims organizations do not avail themselves of the latest business intelligence (BI) tools, they...

Top 10 Legal Requirements for E-Signatures in Insurance

Want to make sure you’ve covered all your bases when adopting e-signatures? Learn how to...

Get $100 in leads with $0 down!

NetQuote's detailed, real-time leads have boosted sales for thousands of successful local agents across the...

The Growing Role of Excess & Surplus Lines in Today’s...

The excess and surplus market (E&S) provides coverage when standard insurance carriers cannot or will...

Tech Digest eNewsletter

Technology related insights for insurance professionals including key developments, solution providers and news briefs from the carrier front – FREE. Sign Up Now!

Advertisement. Closing in 15 seconds.