Accounting for Geographic Basis Risk in Heat Index Insurance: How Spatial Interpolation Can Reduce the Cost of Risk

Daniel Leppert*, T.P.F. Dalhaus, Carl-Johan Lagerkvist

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Extreme heat events cause periodic damage to crop yields and may pose a threat to the income of farmers. Weather index insurance provides payouts to farmers in case of measurable weather extremes to keep production going. However, its viability depends crucially on the accuracy of local weather indices to predict yield damages from adverse weather conditions. So far extreme heat indices are poorly represented in weather index insurance. In this study we construct indices of extreme heat using observations at the nearest weather station and estimates for each county using three interpolation techniques: Inverse-distance weighting, ordinary kriging, and regression kriging. Applying these indices to insurance against heat damage to corn in Illinois and Iowa, we show that heat index insurance reduces relative risk premiums by 27-29% and that interpolated indices outperform the nearest-neighbor index by around 2-3% in terms of relative risk reduction. Further, we find that the advantage of interpolation over a nearest-neighbor index in terms of relative risk reduction increases as the sample of weather stations is reduced. These findings suggest that heat index insurance can work even when weather data is spatially sparse, which delivers important implications for insurance practice and policy makers. Further, our public code repository provides a rich toolbox of methods to be used for other, perils, crops and regions. Our results are therefore not only replicable but also constitute a cornerstone for projects to come.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-286
JournalWeather, climate and society
Issue number2
Early online date23 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Adaptation
  • Agriculture
  • Insurance
  • Interpolation schemes


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