Storm season is coming up: Reduce vulnerability of your assets

by Hanna Schreier

Remember Kyrill? That heavy storm that moved over Europe in January of 2007. It was the first storm in my lifetime (that I remember) which had catastrophic effects. This cyclone killed 47 people and led to damages of about 8 billion euros. Kyrill destroyed 60 million trees, unroofed houses, destroyed bridges and power pylons. Maximum wind speeds of up to 200 km/h were measured.

Kyrill was said to be a storm of the century, but actually researchers found that storms of this violence appear every 15 to 21 years. 

Also more recent storms like Xavier in 2017 and Mortimer in 2019 were very destructive and led to the shutting down of almost all train services in Germany. 

But why exactly are more storms coming up in Europe, and also in the USA, as the colder seasons begin?

In the temperate latitudes, solar radiation is going down in autumn, leading to a cooling down of the air, especially in the north. Thus, the contrast between hot air in the south and cool air in the north becomes more apparent, causing massive compensation movements of the air.

Concerning wind speeds, winter storms are usually heavier than autumn storms. However, storms in autumn can be extremely dangerous and in some instances even more destructive. The main reason for this is that trees still have leaves in autumn and therefore are more vulnerable to the air masses. In addition, dry summers weaken the trees’ resistance.

While scientific studies did not find significant evidence that the number of storms will increase with ongoing climate change, it is certain that the severity of the events will exacerbate. In the future storms like Kyrill could appear more often.

Infrastructure networks like railways and power lines are extremely prone to autumn and winter storms and utility risk management can be very challenging.

There are basically three different adaptation options:

  • Reduction of exposure to hazardous events (e.g. providing more robust structures)
  • Reduction of consequences of hazardous events (e.g. reducing pressures on utilities, preparation and readiness)
  • Improvement of recovery from hazardous impacts (effective recovery procedures)

The first step in natural hazard management should always be to reduce the pressures on the infrastructure network. In order to decrease vulnerability through heavy storms a realiable, condition-based vegetation management is inevitable.

A sufficient data basis on the condition of the vegetation alongside utility networks can be acquired with satellite data. Satellites capture images of the earth every few days and create a huge amount of data to use.

LiveEO analyses satellite images with advanced machine-learning algorithms in order to detect and classify objects along infrastructure grids. Sick trees or vegetation too close to utility networks can be identified and risk assessed easily, determining exposed spans of the grids.

In this way we generate actionable insights for the risk management of utility companies and show precisely where vegetation cutback is needed.

LiveEO supports infrastructure utilities in a significant reduction of the vulnerability to storm effects.

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