NASA Takes an Insured Look at Hailstorm Risk

When a hail storm strikes, the damage can be catastrophic for homes, businesses, agriculture and infrastructure. In fact, with damage totals sometimes exceeding $1 billion, hailstorms are the costliest severe storm hazard for the insurance industry, making reliable, long-term data necessary to estimate insured damage and assess extreme loss risks.

A Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite–16 (GOES-16) animation of color-enhanced infrared wavelength temperature overlaid upon visible wavelength brightness imagery from May 22-23, 2020. White-colored areas embedded within magenta shading indicate cloud temperatures colder than -80 degrees Celsius and strong updrafts, commonly referred to as overshooting cloud tops. A plume of warmer colors (red) with different cloud top texture streaming to the northeast out of the updraft near Burkburnett, Texas indicate an above anvil cirrus plume, a strong indicator of ice injection into the stratosphere and an extremely severe storm. Hail exceeding 5 inches (12.5 cm) in diameter was observed in Burkburnett and 4-inch (10 cm) diameter hail was reported near Davidson, Oklahoma.

That’s why a team of NASA scientists is working with international partners to use satellite data to detect hailstorms, hail damage, and improve our understanding of hail frequency. This project will provide long term regional- to global-scale maps of severe storm occurrence, catastrophe models, and new methods to improve short-term forecasting of these storms.

“We’re using data from many satellite sensors to really dig in and understand when and where hailstorms are likely to occur and the widespread damage that they can cause," said Kristopher Bedka, principal investigator at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. "This is a first-of-its-kind project and we’re beginning to show how useful this satellite data can be to the reinsurance industry, forecasters, researchers, and many other stakeholders.”