Hail is great news for auto body mechanics but bad news for almost everyone else.
Insurance companies in Switzerland pay out hundreds of millions of francs every year to farmers who have had their crops damaged or car owners whose vehicles have been battered by hail.
But now Swiss firm Baloise is running a pilot project aimed at slashing its payouts due to hail damage.
The company is running a pilot project involving a plane which hunts clouds containing hail and then sprays them with silver iodide in a process known as cloud seeding.
The idea is to reduce the size of hailstones in clouds so that the hailstones cause less damage when they hit the ground, or even to prevent hailstorms altogether.
The jury is still very much out on whether the well-known technique is effective outside the laboratory. But Mathias Zingg who heads up the damage department at Baloise believes the plane could seriously reduce hail damage in Switzerland.
“There are studies which show that this intervention can reduce the probability of hail by 50 percent,” Zingg told Swiss broadcaster SRF.
“We are hopeful we can carry out meaningful prevention,” he said.
And he believes the cost-benefit analysis is clear. The hail plane costs 200,000 Swiss francs against the millions of francs in payouts each year.
“If we can influence development by 10–15 percent then the commitment has been more than worth it,” Zingg noted.
The pilot project is up and running in German-speaking Switzerland and is set to run for three years. If successful, it could be extended to other parts of the country.
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