Mathematics, Models, and Meteorology

For twelve weeks this summer, Pinelopi Loizou, a doctoral student in the meteorology department at the University of Reading (U.K.), conducted research under the mentorship of Mark Guishard, BIOS faculty member and program manager for the BIOS Risk Prediction Initiative (RPI). The goal of her internship was to use Bermuda as a model to learn how risks related to tropical cyclones are managed within the reinsurance industry. The research she conducted at BIOS will contribute to her thesis, which investigates how climate influences tropical cyclone activity.

Doctoral student Pinelopi Loizou of Cyprus spent twelve weeks this summer working at BIOS with mentor Mark Guishard, a meteorologist by training and project manager of the BIOS Risk Prediction Initiative (RPI), to investigate the topic of hurricane variability using Bermuda as a study site. 

“Her internship project involves studying how the global variability of hurricane activity is relevant in a catastrophe risk context,” Guishard said. “Practically, this means she takes output from her climate model work and applies it to a simple catastrophe risk analysis.” 

Tackling these complex questions involves not only meteorology, but also statistics, coding, geographical data management, and an understanding of how human-made structures react to the high wind speeds in hurricanes. This sophisticated, multi-disciplinary approach to analyzing the effects of natural hazards is used by insurance companies, reinsurance companies, and governments to develop a comprehensive view of risk, and to assess the potential for, and potential cost of, real-world impacts from hurricanes.

Loizou’s project is also expected to provide insight into how the hurricane risk for Bermuda might differ under various climate change scenarios. Her doctoral research is being partially supported by Axis Capital, one of the reinsurance partners in RPI, and her work conducted with Guishard as part of a BIOS Research Internship will contribute content for her thesis. 

How did you become interested in this line of research?
I always wanted to become a meteorologist and study different weather and climate phenomena, but I decided that it would be “safer” to study mathematics first since it provides a strong foundation for many different science disciplines.  After I obtained my undergraduate degree in mathematics from the University of Cyprus in 2016, I enrolled in the master’s program in applied meteorology at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom. 

When I started the program I had zero knowledge of meteorology and, by the end, I wanted to stay and experience what applied research is like in this field. Luckily enough, my doctoral position was advertised in the summer of 2017, just before I submitted my master’s thesis. After applying, I was accepted and began work in September of that same year.

Part of my motivation for wanting to study tropical cyclones (another term for hurricanes used particularly in the Southern Hemisphere) is a desire to help people in cyclone-prone areas prepare for these events in order to reduce the loss of life and property that is so common. Surprisingly enough, my doctoral project ended focusing on understanding how tropical cyclones have changed, and how they might change in the future, in order to provide mitigation and planning information to people strongly impacted by these weather events, including insurance companies. One of my supervisors works for AXIS Capital, one of the largest insurance and global reinsurance companies. 

BIOS intern at Bermuda Weather Service

During her internship, which was supported by AXIS Capital—a reinsurance partner within RPI—and a BIOS Research Internship, Loizou (second from right) had the opportunity to explore the operational side of meteorology, as well as how it is utilized with the insurance and reinsurance industries. During an internship exchange with the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers (ABIR), she—along with ABIR intern Calum Maule (left)—accompanied Guishard (right) on a visit to the Bermuda Weather Service (BWS). BWS Director James Dodgson (second from left) demonstrated how weather and climate data are collected and utilized in real-time and gave the interns a tour of the air traffic control tower.

How did you learn about BIOS?
During the summer of 2018, my supervisors at the University of Reading and AXIS arranged a meeting with Dr. Guishard, so I had the opportunity to present my work to him. We all agreed that it would be useful to explore my work within the context of risk and I was excited to learn there were programs in place that would allow me to study at BIOS for an extended period.

Can you summarize your research at BIOS and how it applies to your doctoral research?
The main goal of my internship is to learn how tropical cyclone-related risk is managed within the reinsurance industry. I’m accomplishing this by inserting decadal variability “conditioning” into a catastrophe model, which simulates financial impacts from hurricane property damage, rather than just focusing on the storms themselves. Basically, I’m using the model to look at hurricane-related wind damage in Bermuda in years with both high and low storm frequencies. My doctoral work is on how climate influences tropical cyclone activity, so there is a strong connection between my research at BIOS and my thesis topic. 

What are your longer-term research and career goals?
I definitely want to stay involved in the field of meteorology, although I’m not sure if this will be in research or operational work. I’ve been experiencing the research aspect of it for almost two years now. During my time at BIOS I gained insight into forecasting by visiting the Bermuda Weather Service, experiencing the weather at sea aboard the R/V Atlantic Explorer during a Hydrostation ‘S’ cruise, and by participating in forecast exercises with Guishard. This internship was an excellent opportunity for me to experience the “industry” aspect of it. I had the opportunity to spend a day with the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers (ABIR) as part of an internship exchange, and I also worked with a catastrophe risk manager at AXIS Capital in Hamilton, Bermuda. 

What has been the most memorable part of your internship experience at BIOS?
The best part has definitely been interacting with scientists doing work in other fields. Meteorology has a tendency to be somewhat insular, so it’s nice to be able to hear about work in oceanography and other areas of ocean science that I wouldn’t normally be exposed to.