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European windstorm Christian threatens UK and northern Europe


A European windstorm which formed in the mid-Atlantic from remnants of tropical storm Lorenzo which merged with a weather front that moved offshore of Canada has been named Christian and now threatens the UK and northern Europe with damaging winds gusting to 80 mph or more.

It’s the first major European windstorm of the year, a little early perhaps as the European windstorm season officially begins in December and runs through till March, but this storm has got forecasters and insurers concerned about the potential for damage to properties and potential insured losses.

The European windstorm has been named Christian by the meteorological community, but is also being called by other names including the St Jude storm by the UK Met Office (due to the feast of St Jude on the 28th October) and windstorm Carmen by the European Windstorm Centre (a UK forecaster).

European windstorms are the second highest source of insured losses from natural perils, after Atlantic hurricanes, and with insurance penetration high across the regions of the UK and northern Europe that windstorm Christian will impact a level of insured losses is inevitable and some impact on reinsurers also possible, given the latest forecasts.

The catastrophe bond market has a good amount of exposure to European windstorms as well, with a number of active cat bonds transferring European windstorm risks to capital market investors and all providing coverage across the areas that Christian will impact the hardest (based on current forecasts).

The UK is receiving a lot of the media focus for the potential impact of windstorm Christian but the storm is also expected to bring damaging winds gusting to 80 mph to northern France as it moves towards northern Europe where the Netherlands and Denmark are squarely in the storm’s path.

Reports from forecasters have suggested that the UK may see its worst storm since 1987, meaning that Christian could be a more powerful storm than Kyrill in 2007 which caused an estimated £350m of insured losses in the UK alone and an estimated €3.5 billion insured loss across Europe (according to an estimate from Swiss Re).

So that definitely makes Christian worth tracking and insurers are certainly doing their best to make the public aware of the threat by encouraging damage limitation actions in the UK. One UK home insurer estimated that winds with the potential to cause damage could affect as many as one-quarter of all properties in England.

Currently the UK Met Office forecasts that the storm will pass the UK by the middle of Monday, before moving on towards northern Europe. The graphic below shows the Met Office’s thoughts on the latest track, or path, for Christian and also the timings when the strongest winds will impact different regions.

European windstorm Christian forecast track

European windstorm Christian forecast track - Source: UK Met Office

Windstorm Christian is moving quickly though and there is a chance that the timings may be moved earlier. The UK is facing the strongest winds during the morning rush hour in the most populous region, the southeast and London.

In northern Europe France, Denmark, Germany and Sweden all have amber warnings for high winds in place, the Netherlands, Poland, Luxembourg and Belgium all have yellow wind warnings in place.

Here are two links where you can compare some of the global and European weather models forecasts for minimum central pressures and also view windspeed forecast maps for Christian.

Windstorm Christian is also threatening heavy rainfall across the UK and Europe, adding another threat of insurance losses from flooding.

The current forecasts show the minimum central pressure of Christian deepening as it approaches the UK, hitting lows of around 965mb as it passes the UK and northern France and maintaining its intensity as it passes into northern European countries. Forecasters suggest winds will definitely be gusting to 60 mph to 70 mph, with some suggesting gusts of 80 mph to 100 mph. If the forecasts hold true then European windstorm Christian looks likely to become an event that the reinsurance industry may have to worry about in terms of losses.

Whether insured losses from windstorm Christian will be meaningful for reinsurers or could ever trouble any outstanding catastrophe bonds is impossible to say right now, but it is a storm worth watching and we can only hope the early formation of such a severe European windstorm is not a sign of an active season to come.

You can read about every European windstorm catastrophe bond which could become exposed to windstorm Christian in our Deal Directory.

Update: PERILS AG told Artemis today that it was assessing European windstorm Christian to see whether it had the potential to cause a suffciently large insurance industry loss to qualify for reporting.

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