Teenager launches broker-sponsored climate change expedition

A 19-year-old could change the way carriers measure weather-related risk. At least, that’s what one brokerage firm hopes.

Teenager launches broker-sponsored climate change expedition

Catastrophe & Flood


Huge spikes in natural disasters are worrying producers of all shapes and sizes, but one firm is taking the fight to the Antarctic, courtesy of a 19-year-old Yale student.

Parker Liautaud, a student of the department of geology and geophysics at Yale University, has partnered with Willis Group Holdings to launch a 40-day expedition to Antarctica, the global insurance broker announced Monday. The expedition, which will last from November 2013 to January 2014, aims to learn more about the changing climate and how weather-related risk will impact the insurance industry.

“We need to model the insurance industry’s exposure to climate-related risk to fulfill the stringent requirements of financial regulation,” said Rowan Douglas, chairman of the Willis Research Network. “We hope [the initiative] will provide scientists with important data to inform their models which, in turn, provide inputs to our own systems to estimate the risk of extreme events.”

Douglas was also enthusiastic about the involvement of the teenaged Liautaud.

“What makes [the expedition] even more remarkable is that is being led by an outstanding and charismatic young scientist and explorer,” he said.

Willis’s announcement of its expedition comes on the heels of a recent report from Stanford University indicating that global warming trends are leading to more frequent severe thunderstorms and tornados toward the end of the century.

The initiative, called the Willis Resilience Expedition, will test an automatic weather station in Antarctica. The station has never been used in the Antarctic and could provide extensive surface observations for the region.

Liautaud and other members of the expedition will also conduct a “coast-to-pole-to-coast” survey of the continent. During the survey, the team will attempt to age snow and ice up to 150 years, which could provide important clues about the global water cycle.

As such a large-scale study has not been attempted since the 1960s, Willis hopes the survey will provide new and helpful information on changing global temperatures in recent years.

Once the information is gathered, it will be sent to the International Atomic Energy Agency, where lab teams will analyze the findings.

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