Flood Dangers: Large Knowledge Is Serving to Enterprise Preserve Its Head Above Water

Graph showing that the UK's flood risks are increasing.  Estimated number of additional UK high or very high risk households, thousands, in a medium emissions scenario for decades of the 2050s and 2080s.

Britain’s bad weather is the stuff of polite small talk. But the warmer and more humid climate is beyond the level of mere chat. Rainfalls are more frequent and flooding is increasing. Parts of London resembled Venice after the flash floods that summer. The financial toll rises, as does the water level.

The UK summer floods in 2007 – an event that happened only once in a century – caused £ 1.5 billion in damage to homes. About 3 million homes in England are at risk of flooding; Ambiental Risk Analytics estimates that assuming weather conditions persist, another 1.2 million UK properties could be added by 2050. The consultancy that emerged from the University of Cambridge is among those using advances in mapping and data to address the problem.

The cost of flooded homes is passed on to insurers and mortgage lenders. The latter are faced with a decline in the value of the collateral. Justin Butler, the boss of Ambiental, estimates that about 4 percent of a house’s value is lost in the first flood; further floods add to this number. Without measures to reduce the impact, flood insurance premiums will double over the next 30 years.

The problem is global. The floods in Thailand in 2011 destroyed important links in the global supply chain. According to a recent study, half of Louisiana’s critical infrastructure is at risk of flooding this year. Climate change could challenge the port status of the US $ 4 trillion worth of US municipal bond market.

Warning signals enable companies to evacuate personnel and equipment from hazardous areas. Previsico, another university spinout, complements official warnings with warnings of surface water flooding, a growing threat.

Improvements in hydrological modeling techniques – tracking and predicting the water cycle – are an area of ​​growth. Previsico, which raised £ 1.75 million to fund US expansion, says it can predict floods up to a resolution of 25 million with rates of accuracy as high as 90 percent.

Index builders and hedge funds use big data methods to identify the flood risks borne by companies. One area of ​​research is to automatically match all addresses of a company with their location on watercourses and the sea. This could allow investors to better identify companies at risk from flooding so that they can reduce their exposure when storms are forecast.

Like a rain shower, fire is a blessing and a curse for humanity. For many years, insurers have required homeowners to take action against fires. Smoke alarms come to mind. With water under increasing threats to wealth and health, it is expected that flood control and predictive technologies will become equally important.

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