Atmospheric River events likely to become more intense in the future with potential catastrophic flooding

16 February 2016

Orlando: Speaking today at the Reinsurance Association of Americas' (RAA's) Cat Risk Management 2016 conference, Josh Darr, Lead Meteorologist and Kimberly Roberts, AVP/Meteorologist from JLT Re North America highlighted the risk of Atmospheric Rivers (AR) to catastrophic flood events.

During the presentation Josh Darr explained that "Atmospheric Rivers are a 'freeway' of moisture rich air that connects the tropics to mid-latitudes and whilst most AR events create beneficial rainfall, strong AR events can cause major flooding like the damaging events seen in the UK and India in December 2015".

Flooding from AR events can happen when there is an interaction between terrain and the moisture flow which at times can equal to 8-15 times the water flow of the Mississippi River.

Kimberly Roberts commented on how in states like California "Whether just a few large AR's arrive or fail to arrive can be the difference between a banner year and a drought." The summer wildfire season is closely tied to drought conditions, thus AR storms can directly impact wildfire season. "Clearly forecasting AR's is increasingly important and satellites are critical for detection" said Kimberly Roberts.

In conclusion Josh Darr warned, "As theory expects moisture is increasing and has been observed over the past 40 years. Future projections of AR events indicate that average AR event intensity will not change. However, most extreme events in the future have a higher likelihood of being more intense than events we’ve seen in the historical record. When topography intersects slow moving AR events, potentially catastrophic flooding ensues".

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Notes to Editors


JLT Re Isabella Gaster Tel: (+44) 20 7558 3387/ (+44) 7920 586 032 Email:

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