The career of a real-life Randall Pearson, who is played by Sterling K. Brown, on NBC’s hit show ‘This Is Us.’
It took a 60-foot grave — and 26 hours — for Holly Capron and her husband, who were then raising turkeys in Kansas, to bury the 4,600 birds that died in the 2011 July heat wave. Roughly, 1,000 miles to the east in North Carolina, the losses were worse: 50,000 chickens died in under an hour as temperatures jettisoned above 100F. “It felt like hell,” Holly Capron told the Associated Press.
To safeguard itself against the elements, a company might call a man like Alejandro Turullols, who deals in products that protect against weather-related losses for energy brokerage Tradition Energy in Stamford, Conn. “We trade temperature,” he says of the industry — using various forecast models to predict how much higher or lower temperatures will go than historical norms. His role is like that of a real-estate agent — but for weather: He studies weather forecasts and then connects a company looking to capitalize on the financial impact weather might have on its bottom line, with a company, like an insurance company or financial firm, that offers a product that can do this.
As temperatures soar in the summers and polar vortices hit in the winter, America’s farmers — and utility companies, clothing retailers and others — face weather-related losses like the chicken catastrophe that can climb into billions of dollars in losses. From January through September of 2016 there were 12 weather or climate events in which losses exceeded $1 billion, the U.S. government estimates — more than double the average from 1980 to 2015.
These kinds of weather products have been used by everyone from the Dutch construction industry — in the Netherlands, construction workers won’t work if the temperature falls below freezing — to Florida orange growers, to offset losses from cold. Sometimes even rock bands need them, says weather futures trader Brian O’Hearne. A Black Eyed Peas rep called O’Hearne back in 2006 when a typhoon threatened the group’s Taiwan concern. (O’Hearne had to tell Fergie and company no, as one usually has to buy the weather products he sells 20 days or more out from the actual event.)
Tell someone you broker weather derivatives, and you often get a “huh?” says Turullols — and then treated more like Punxsutawney Phil than Jamie Dimon. The huh factor was recently a plot point on NBC’s hit show “This is Us” when Randall (played by Sterling Brown) goes to Career Day at his children’s school and attempts to make his profession understandable and relatable to the kids by performing a song about his hard-to-explain work. (Spoiler alert: It squirm-in-your-seat fails.)
“[People] ask me what the weather is going to be next week; I say: Accuweather says it’s going to be 60 and sunny,” Turullols jokes. At home, he says, he gets his weather from “Today” show weatherman Al Roker.
Turullols is not a meteorologist and has no meteorology training. He’s a numbers guy, who brokers his trades, in part, on a combination of current forecasts and historical temperatures, typically measured from the runways of one of dozens of airports over the past decades, as well as current forecast models. It’s a combination of math, statistics, history and futurology. (Air-traffic control towers typically have the most accurate historical weather records.)
“The problem with weather is that it’s so hard to predict,” he says. Sometimes, “you come in and the weather has completely changed and everyone is looking for possible new opportunities.”
But there’s also a beauty to it, he says, particularly given the uncertain times we live in: The weather isn’t as open to interpretation as many other events — when it rains six inches, it rains six inches, and everyone pretty much agrees on that. “It is what it is,” he says.
This story was originally published on MarketWatch.
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