Research on tracking storms has been used to develop a storm-tracking and analysis software package, known as TRACK. This has found widespread applications, particularly in weather forecasting, climate model development and in the insurance industry. Academic research using TRACK has provided continual evaluation and validation and has driven on-going development of the software package. The software enables the detection of many types of storm features in a wide variety of numerical weather and climate models, and the observational and re-analysis datasets offer new insights into severe weather impacts. The research has given rise to a large number of quantitative practical applications in forecasting, the insurance industry and safe maritime operations during bad weather.

Simulating storms is important when planning for defence against extreme weather. It is also important for the insurance and reinsurance sectors when they are looking at risk assessment and insurance pricing, as storms cost the insurance and reinsurance sectors a lot of money. For example Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurance company was reported in the Wall Street Journal as saying that global insurers and re-insurers will have to pay around $25 billion for the widespread damage caused by the US superstorm Sandy.

Scientists working at the University of Reading have developed a software package known as TRACK, which is a diagnostic tool to identify storms, track their movement and evolution, and record their characteristics (for example intensity and growth rates). To maximise its usefulness, this tool has been designed to be suitable for use with very large meteorological datasets, and produce output data in a format that is suitable for end-users.


Users of the TRACK software include a wide range of national meteorological services and private-sector meteorological service providers. The results of this are that insurance brokers are able to make improved assessments of wind-storm risk; and national and commercial operational meteorological centres are able to validate and improve storm properties in their models. Improved storm simulations lead to better forecasting and reduced forecast errors. They also enable better simulations of future climate for evaluating long term changes to risks and hazards.

The impact of the development and use of the TRACK software has global reach. Storms affect many regions of the globe, and the software has already been applied to operational meteorological centres worldwide. The use of the software by meteorological centres will help to better forecast storms, which could reduce potential loss of life by these extreme weather events through improved warning and better preparation.

Storms also pose an insurance risk worldwide, and TRACK is helping to better quantify this. Its adoption in the modelling and risk assessment by the insurance and reinsurance sector is a big indication of the importance that this industry places on the value of the TRACK software and its related research.

Research led by Dr Kevin Hodges

First published: June 2015

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