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Columbia University-ETH Zurich workshop

Extreme Environmental Risks: Statistical Modeling and Insurability

Practical informations


The main topic of this workshop will be the statistical description of environmental (mainly meteorological) events -especially extreme ones (such as hurricanes and severe thunderstorms)- as well as the mathematical/statistical modeling of these events and their consequences on (re)insurance and financial markets. An important aim of this workshop is to initiate collaboration on the above topics between Columbia University (CU) and ETH Zurich.

In a truly interdisciplinary spirit, we want to study issues exactly at the crossroads between meteorology, statistics and insurance; we aim at defining concrete research projects involving meteorologists, statisticians and actuaries. The best way to find interactions between different fields is to let people have time to discuss. This is why each session will end with a discussion between the session's speakers and the audience, led by the session's chair. The chair is expected to prepare the discussion by identifying relevant questions and topics based on the content of the talks of the session. Each session (apart from the last one) involves at least one speaker from the meteorological world and one from the statistical/actuarial one. Talks from experts from one field are expected to be understandable for participants from different areas of research. Thus, talks should not focus on specialized research but more on pedagogical aspects providing fundamental knowledge in the field. Each speaker is expected to begin his/her talk by a short introduction of himself/herself as well as the presenter's main field of research.


Monday, March 14 (in room G 19.1)

Registration: 8:30-8:45.
Morning session (8:45:12:45)
Chair: E. Koch (RiskLab, Dept. of Mathematics, ETH Zurich). Discussion available upon request.
  • 8:45-9:00: Prof. P. Embrechts (RiskLab, Dept. of Mathematics, ETH Zurich),
    Introduction and main stakes of this collaboration between CU and ETH Zurich;
  • 9:00-9:45: Prof. H. Wernli (Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich),
    A weather-system perspective on extreme wind and rainfall events in midlatitudes;
  • 9:45-10:30: Prof. R. A. Davis (Dept. of Statistics, CU),
    Topics in spatial extreme value theory;
  • 10:30-11:00: Coffee break;
  • 11:00-11:45: Prof. M. K. Tippett (Dept. of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics, CU),
    Variability in US tornado reports and environments;
  • 11:45-12:45: Round table with Prof. H. Wernli, Prof. R. A. Davis and Prof. M. K. Tippett and open discussion with the audience.
Lunch with time for informal discussions: 12:45-14:00, in room G 69.
Afternoon session (14:00-17:00)
Chair: Prof. T. Schneider (Geological Institute, ETH Zurich)
  • 14:00-14:45: Prof. A. H. Sobel (Dept. of Earth and Environmental Sciences, CU),
    Climate change and extreme weather events;
  • 14:45-15:30: Prof. J. H. Blanchet (Dept. of Statistics, CU),
    Monte Carlo simulation and meta-modeling techniques;
  • 15:30-16:00: Coffee break;
  • 16:00-17:00: Round table with Prof. A. H. Sobel and Prof. J. H. Blanchet and open discussion with the audience.
Apero and Dinner: 18:30-22:00.

Tuesday, March 15 (in room G 19.1)

Morning session (9:00-12:00)
Chair: Prof. M. K. Tippett (Dept. of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics, CU)
  • 9:00-9:45: Prof. S. J. Camargo (Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, CU) and C. Lee (International Research Institute for Climate and Society, CU),
    Relationship of tropical cyclones and climate: from intra-seasonal to climate change;
  • 9:45-10:30: Prof. P. Embrechts (Dept. of Mathematics, RiskLab, ETH Zurich),
    Measuring risk;
  • 10:30-11:00: Coffee break;
  • 11:00-12:00: Round table with Prof. S. J. Camargo and Prof. P. Embrechts and open discussion with the audience.
Lunch with time for informal discussions: 12:00-13:15, in room G 69.
Afternoon session (13:15-17:00)
Chair: Prof. A. H. Sobel (Dept. of Earth and Environmental Sciences, CU)
  • 13:15-14:00: P. Zimmerli (Head of Atmospheric Perils, Swiss Re),
    Natural catastrophes: understanding reinsurance cat modeling needs;
  • 14:00-14:45: M. Wüest (Natural catastrophe model developer in Group Underwriting, Swiss Re),
    The Swiss Re in-house approach for modeling natural catastrophe;
  • 14:45-15:45: Round table with P. Zimmerli and M. Wüest and open discussion with the audience;
  • 15:45-16:15: Coffee break;
  • 16:15-17:00: Closing discussion led by Prof. P. Embrechts and E. Koch.
Dinner: 18:30-22:00.

List of participants

Available upon request.


All participants coming from abroad will stay at Hotel Sunnehus (address: Sonneggstrasse 17, 8006 Zurich), which is at a 3 minutes walk distance from the ETH Zurich main building, where the workshop takes place. These participants can directly go to hotel after arriving at Zurich airport. Especially, those arriving very early in Zurich will have the possibility to early check in. Moreover, the participants will receive a street map of Zurich during the check-in. Finally, the hotel will make adaptors (both US plug-Swiss plug and English plug-Swiss plug) available during the whole stay of participants.
There are easy train and taxi connections from the airport to the hotel. However, the preferred mode of transport is the following: take the tramway number 10, direction "Zurich, Bahnhofplatz/HB", and get off at the stop "Zurich, ETH/Universitätsspital". After leaving the tram walk back a couple of steps, take a left for 100m and then again a left into Sonneggstrasse. After about 100m you will see the hotel. The duration is about 35 minutes.
The hotel is located at a walking distance of the city center. Thus, participants may only use one tram ticket to reach the hotel from the airport upon arrival (buy a single ticket) and another one to reach the airport on departure (buy a single ticket).

Additional informations:

Social events

Both dinners below are conference events and are paid by the organizers.
  • Conference Dinner on Monday March 14: Restaurant Neumarkt.
    Meeting at 18:30 at the entrance of Hotel Sunnehus or at 18:45 at Restaurant Neumarkt (Neumarkt 5, 8001 Zurich).
  • Dinner on Tuesday March 15: Restaurant Le Dézaley.
    Meeting at 18:30 at the entrance of Hotel Sunnehus or at 18:45 at Restaurant Le Dézaley (Römergasse 7, 8001 Zurich).


Available upon request.