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Italy takes lead on weather risk modelling

Italy is taking a lead on modelling weather events and the ability to mitigate their impact, with the launch of the first European index to track the financial impact of climate risk and the release of a flagship study on the effect of climate change on convective rainfall, using high-resolution models.

The need to accurately forecast weather events and their potential impact has never been more important, not just for climate change and extreme events but for a range of climate phenomena liable to impact human activities.

Fortunately, the development of ICT- and tool-based technologies is continually improving  their performance, enabling more accurate support for enterprises, institutions, insurance companies and whole sectors, such as agriculture, tourism and entertainment.

The ability to access detailed information on weather events and how they occur enables the introduction of measures to safeguard asset and, in the worst cases, people, in due time.

Based on this need, the first European index to evaluate the financial impact of climate risk has been developed in Italy. The European Extreme Events Climate Index (E3CI), launched earlier this year, has been developed by the International Foundation for Big Data and Artificial Intelligence for Human Development, in association with Cmcc and Leithà, a company established by Unipol and focused on the development of technological innovation projects.

The main goal of E3CI is to identify the areas affected by extreme weather events and to assess the severity of the impact in support of the insurance and reinsurance sectors.

The index features five weather indicators – rainfall, heat stress, cold stress, drought and intense winds – calculated on a monthly basis for each country in Europe. The system measures the frequency of extreme weather events, providing useful information to assess the financial impacts of said risks.

Scholars realised a long time ago that the high-resolution regional climate models are particularly accurate in identifying the possibility of intense and localised atmospheric phenomena. However, until recently, the computing power needed to run the calculations wasn’t always available. Continual improvements in computing power make a plethora of applications possible nowadays, including the use of high-resolution models.

The first high-resolution multi-model ensemble, featuring a kilometric scale and the chronological horizon of a decade, has been presented within the CORDEX-FPS Flagship Pilot Study on convective phenomena. The European scientists involved in the CORDEX-FPS project have identified the Alps as a case study for both Europe and the Mediterranean region, focusing their analysis on the effect of climate change on convective rainfall.

The models have been used to produce high-resolution simulations of the rainfall that occurred between 2000 and 2009 within the area under study. The reference to a past period has allowed variance verification from the actual data, making simulation models more effective.

The study has confirmed the greater accuracy of high-resolution models. Such models have underestimated the hourly extreme rainfalls by an average of 3% on average, compared with the 40% median of low-resolution models. The study also showed a significant improvement in calculating the hourly rainfall frequency.

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