Development and Analysis of a Hurricane Hazard Model for Disaster Risk Assessment in Central America

Friday, 19 December 2014
Gonzalo L. Pita, Rashmin Gunasekera and Oscar A. Ishizawa, World Bank, Washington, DC, United States
Hurricane and tropical storm activity in Central America has consistently caused over the past decades thousands of casualties, significant population displacement, and substantial property and infrastructure losses. As a component to estimate future potential losses, we present a new regional probabilistic hurricane hazard model for Central America. Currently, there are very few openly available hurricane hazard models for Central America. This resultant hazard model would be used in conjunction with exposure and vulnerability components as part of a World Bank project to create country disaster risk profiles that will assist to improve risk estimation and provide decision makers with better tools to quantify disaster risk.

This paper describes the hazard model methodology which involves the development of a wind field model that simulates the gust speeds at terrain height at a fine resolution. The HURDAT dataset has been used in this study to create synthetic events that assess average hurricane landfall angles and their variability at each location. The hazard model also then estimates the average track angle at multiple geographical locations in order to provide a realistic range of possible hurricane paths that will be used for risk analyses in all the Central-American countries. This probabilistic hurricane hazard model is then also useful for relating synthetic wind estimates to loss and damage data to develop and calibrate existing empirical building vulnerability curves. To assess the accuracy and applicability, modeled results are evaluated against historical events, their tracks and wind fields. Deeper analyses of results are also presented with a special reference to Guatemala.

The findings, interpretations, and conclusions expressed in this paper are entirely those of the authors. They do not necessarily represent the views of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/World Bank and its affiliated organizations, or those of the Executive Directors of the World Bank or the governments they represent.