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Weather Derivative


A weather derivative is a financial instrument used by companies to hedge against the risk of weather-related losses. It is a contract between two parties that stipulates a payment will be made if a certain weather event occurs or doesn’t occur. The specified event could be as simple as a rainy day or as complex as a particular hurricane happening at a certain time and location.


The phonetic pronunciation of this term is: ‘Weath-er Deriv-a-tive’ – Weather: /ˈwɛðər/- Derivative: /dɪˈrɪvətɪv/

Key Takeaways

  1. Functionality. Weather derivatives are financial instruments that firms can use to reduce their risk exposure to adverse weather conditions. They function like insurance, providing compensation when certain weather events (like excessive rainfall, extreme temperatures, etc.) occur that could hamper business operations.
  2. Trading Platforms. Weather derivatives are typically traded over-the-counter or on established exchanges such as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The types of derivatives traded can vary widely, from contracts based on temperature to hurricanes, and their complexity can also vary.
  3. Basis Risk. One of the key risks associated with weather derivatives is basis risk, which arises when the weather index used does not perfectly correlate with the firm’s actual loss exposure. This can happen, for example, if the weather station used for the index is some distance from the firm’s actual location or does not track all the relevant weather conditions.


A weather derivative is a crucial tool in business and finance as it offers a risk management approach to protect businesses from financial losses due to unpredictable weather conditions. In sectors such as agriculture, energy, construction, and even travel, weather can severely impact revenues and operational efficacy. When a business invests in a weather derivative contract, it gets a financial payout if specific weather events occur, allowing it to compensate for losses tied to such events. This not only provides financial security, but it also allows businesses to plan strategically despite the uncertainty brought about by weather conditions, thus promoting business stability and continuity.


Weather derivatives are financial instruments used primarily by companies to hedge against the risk of weather-related losses. The weather conditions have significant impact on the revenues and expenses of certain businesses such as utilities, agriculture, construction, and transportation among others. For example, an energy company might use a weather derivative to protect against the possibility of a mild winter causing less demand for heating, or an agricultural business might protect against a drought affecting crop yields. Both these companies could potentially suffer financial losses due to unanticipated weather conditions. Weather derivatives allow these companies to transfer this risk to financial markets, thereby optimizing their financial performance and stability.To emphasize, weather derivatives are not insurance products but are related to financial futures and options. While insurance pays for damage after it occurs, the derivative pays out based on a predetermined index of weather conditions such as temperature, rainfall, or snowfall. For example, a ski resort might purchase a snowfall derivative that pays out if snowfall in a given month falls below a certain amount. This allows the resort to offset the lost revenue from fewer patrons due to low snowfall. Thus, weather derivatives provide a financial cushion to businesses against the volatile nature of weather, help stabilize earnings and improve predictability of financial performance.


1. Energy Sector: A natural gas company may use weather derivatives to hedge against the risk of mild winters. Usually, demand for natural gas increases in colder months, but if it’s milder than usual, less gas will be needed for heating, potentially leading to an income shortfall for the company. By purchasing a derivative that pays out if the winter is milder than average, they can cover potential lost revenue.2. Agriculture Industry: A farmer, whose crop yield is heavily dependent on the amount of rainfall, may enter into a derivative contract that pays out if the total rainfall over a certain period is below a threshold. This guarantees the farmer some income even if crops fail due to the lack of rain. 3. Tourism Sector: A ski resort operator heavily relies on a sufficient amount of winter snowfall. To mitigate financial losses during a lackluster ski season due to unusually low snowfall, the operator may invest in a weather derivative that pays out under these conditions. Thus, even if they lose out on revenue from fewer customers, they will have the payout from the derivative to cover a portion of their losses.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Weather Derivative?

A Weather Derivative is a financial instrument used by businesses to mitigate risks associated with adverse or unexpected weather conditions. Like insurance, it pays out when certain weather conditions occur, such as a certain amount of snow or rainfall.

Who uses Weather Derivatives?

They are primarily used by industries directly impacted by weather conditions, such as agriculture, energy (particularly renewable energy sectors, e.g., wind and solar energy), construction, travel and leisure industry, and even by municipalities and other public services that bear the brunt of harsh weather conditions.

How does a Weather Derivative work?

Weather Derivatives are structured as swaps, options or futures contracts. They pay out if a certain weather index deviates from a pre-set value, which could be temperature, rainfall, snowfall, or wind speed for a specific location and time period.

Are Weather Derivatives considered as insurance?

While they serve a similar purpose as insurance, they are not insurance policies. The main difference is that Weather Derivatives payout based on an index without the holder having to prove a loss, while insurance contracts reimburse the holder for actual losses incurred.

How are payouts for Weather Derivatives determined?

Payouts are determined based on an agreed-upon weather index. If the weather conditions deviate from this index, the holder of the derivative will receive payments. The specific conditions and payout structures are defined in the contract.

Can Weather Derivatives be traded?

Yes, Weather Derivatives are traded on both over-the-counter (OTC) markets and exchanges. Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) is amongst the most known exchanges for these derivatives.

What is the purpose of Weather Derivatives?

The main aim of Weather Derivatives is to hedge against financial losses owing to unusual weather, providing economic stability to businesses that are greatly impacted by weather variability.

Do Weather Derivatives only cover negative weather events?

No, they cover any deviations from expected weather, which could be both negative and positive extremes. For example, a utility company may use them to cover both unusually warm winters (which reduce demand for heat) and unusually cold summers (which reduce demand for air conditioning).

Related Finance Terms

  • Hedging Risk: This term refers to the strategy used by investors or companies to reduce their exposure to price fluctuations caused by changes in weather conditions.
  • Financial Instrument: Weather derivatives are considered a financial instrument, which is a contract that gives rise to a financial asset to one entity and a financial liability or equity instrument to another entity.
  • Index-Based Contract: This is a specific type of weather derivative contract where payouts are determined based on a specified weather index, such as temperature, rainfall, or snowfall level.
  • Energy Sector: This sector is heavily impacted by weather changes and frequently uses weather derivatives to manage associated risks.
  • Insurance Companies: These entities often make use of weather derivatives to manage risk associated with weather-related claims, such as those stemming from natural disasters or severe weather events.

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