May 12, 2008
Announcing the U.S. Flood Catastrophe Model
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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The U.S. Flood Catastrophe Model uses 500,000 events that are reflections of actual historical events. Combined with complex modeling techniques, it places a property using geocoding and it runs these hypothetical events against it. The report will say that property is going to be exposed to event #271 and this was based on the elevation of that property at that point. This is the exposure: that property will get 2 ft. of flooding, and because it’s commercial, that represents 20% damage. The client says the property is worth $2 million. Then the 20% damage is calculated in to come up with the exposure number.

Finally, Sears said you need to consider what kind of financial conditions are involved, such as deductibles. “This is exposure, and that’s where the U.S. Flood Catastrophe Model comes into play.”

Originally developed by SwissRe Insurance, one of the top five reinsurers in the world, the Flood Model was designed for the insurance vertical market. SwissRe ensures primary insurers who underwrite a lot of risk and ultimately need to be insured for the ultimate catastrophes. That’s where reinsurers come in. “SwissRe has every interest in the world to encourage people to underwrite flood so they can turn around and reinsure it. So they have this model they developed and has been validated against hundreds of thousands of actual clients, but they didn’t have the capabilities to go out there and actively market it,” explained Sears. In an exclusive partnership with First
American, SwissRe can begin to distribute that model out in the marketplace, build awareness and get people using it so they can derive additional business on their side.

They can also work with a company who has the tools and experience to improve and enhance that model. First American has 20+ years experience in flood risk, and has developed a number of unique data repositories that lend itself to making that model better.

Parcel based geocoding, plus advanced and current elevation data that the USGS has released, is offered as part of another product that can also enhance the U.S. Flood Catastrophe Model. “We have built out a database of around 85,000 dams and levees which reflects a number of publicly available databases and we’ve incorporated that as part of the flood risk score,” Sears noted. The advanced data is not yet part of the model, but it was instrumental in SwissRe’s decision to partner with First American.

According to Sears, “Flood is such a localized phenomenon. Two feet in elevation distance make a huge distance when it comes to flooding. Besides parcel based geocoding and flood zone determination, the flood risk score is an advanced underwriting tool that pulls in levees and dams, does some elevation calculations, checks for anomalies in the flood maps, with a tool that does real time weather monitoring and reports actual ongoing flooding conditions so people can look at properties that are exposed or in potential danger of flooding at the moment. The advanced flood risk solution makes sense as flood continues to be the most destructive and pervasive of all perils.”

In spite of this reality, the industry has shied away from it, because the tools have to date, not been available to give the industry the confidence to underwrite flood, Sears added. “They must feel confident they can identify and quantify the exposure; if you don’t know the exposure you don’t know how to price it.”


Top News of the Week

Finding your way around town will be easier than ever: Street View is now integrated into
Google Maps driving directions. In the regions across the country where Google Maps Street View imagery is available, users will see camera icons next to each step of their directions, which will open a Street View image of the location, along with an arrow showing the action to be taken. Users can click through their entire route through Street View, and when the journey is complete a green marker will indicate arrival at their destination.

At the
Space Weather Workshop in Boulder, Colo., NASA-funded researchers released to the general public a new "4D" live model of Earth's ionosphere. Without leaving home, anyone can fly through the dynamic layer of ionized gases that encircles Earth at the edge of space itself. All that's required is a connection to the Internet. Airline flight controllers can use this tool to plan long-distance business flights over the poles, saving money and time for flyers.

The ionosphere is, in a sense, our planet's "final frontier." It is the last wisp of Earth's atmosphere that astronauts leave behind when they enter space. The realm of the ionosphere stretches from 50 to 500 miles above Earth's surface where the atmosphere thins to near-vacuum and exposes itself to the fury of the sun. Solar ultraviolet radiation breaks apart molecules and atoms creating a globe-straddling haze of electrons and ions.

Weather Underground, an online provider of weather related content, announced the availability of its new interactive weather map. Sharing its namesake with the website, the WunderMap is an interactive visual display of weather information that is plotted and overlaid on a map interface. Users can choose from a variety of weather layers, including animated radar, current conditions, severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings, live webcam images and animated infrared or visible satellite imagery showing cloud coverage.

The interactive WunderMap feature can be accessed from the WunderMap link on the main page of the
website. Users will find the new feature useful in that it provides a meaningful and uniform representation of multiple types of weather data in an easy to use, interactive format. The level of user-interactivity that can be achieved with the WunderMap makes it a powerful tool for avid meteorologists, while still maintaining a clean and intuitive design for the casual weather observer.

Intergraph has introduced significant enhancements to its end-to-end earth imaging portfolio that will enable organizations to capture, process and manage high-quality images faster and more cost-effectively. Intergraph’s earth imaging solutions include digital aerial cameras, flight management and post-processing systems, photogrammetric workstations and a full photogrammetric data exploitation software suite.


1Spatial is pleased to announce the signing of a Value Added Reseller agreement with
Tele Atlas, a global provider of digital maps and dynamic content for navigation and location-based solutions. This announcement was made at the 1Spatial Conference 2008 where Tele Atlas was a keynote presenter on ‘The Future of the Digital Map’, as well as a Gold Sponsor.

XēDAR Corporation, a provider of cyber and homeland security solutions, announced that its subsidiary Pixxures has been selected by DigitalGlobe as one of its partners to support aerial content collection and processing. Under the agreement,
DigitalGlobe will make Pixxures’ aerial imagery mapping products available through its leading online image library.

IDV Solutions announced a new strategic partnership with
Applied Knowledge Group (AKG), a full service business and technology consulting company. In this partnership, AKG will be able to offer customers new value with SharePoint implementations by using IDV Solutions’ Visual Fusion Suite.

The companies both focus on collaboration and information management solutions built on a Microsoft platform. This partnership will aid in offering clients the right solutions for their needs.

Intergraph digital mapping camera (DMC) will soon be compatible with leading aerial survey software from TRACK’ AIR, offering TRACK’ AIR users a smooth transition to all the benefits of using digital camera technology while still leveraging their existing mission planning and flight management technology. In addition to operating with the DMC, TRACK’ AIR mission planning and flight management software will also work in conjunction with Intergraph’s latest sensor management hardware.

Wireless Matrix Corporation, a leader in mobile resource management (MRM), announced it has partnered with
deCarta, the leading provider of advanced and comprehensive geospatial software platforms, to increase its mapping capabilities within FleetOutlook, Wireless Matrix's flagship web application.


Professional engineering and mapping services firm
Bohannan Huston, Inc. (BHI) has been selected by the
Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) to produce high-quality digital aerial photography for the Denver Regional Aerial Photography Project (DRAPP). BHI will conduct multifaceted aerial photography of approximately 7,000 square miles of the Denver metropolitan area, including Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Clear Creek, Denver, Douglas, Gilpin and Jefferson counties, and parts of Weld, Grand and Park counties. The resulting aerial imagery will be used for regional planning, evaluating and mitigating natural hazards, transportation and land use planning, natural resource management, and
water resource planning.

You can find the full GISCafe event calendar here.

To read more news, click here.

-- Susan Smith, Managing Editor.

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