Rising Sea Levels, Storm Surges Threaten Airport Runways

AIN Air Transport Perspective » January 21, 2013
Floodwater encroaches on a runway at New York La Guardia Airport in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. (Photo: JetBlue Airways)
January 21, 2013, 12:40 PM

Rising sea levels and extreme weather events attributed to global climate change will increase the flood risk to airports and other transportation infrastructure in coastal regions of the U.S., according to the draft report of a government advisory committee. The trend over time will reduce the reliability and capacity of the transportation system, the study warns.

The draft report of the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee (NCADAC), released this month, identifies 13 large airports with at least one runway at an elevation within 12 feet of current sea level. Climate experts expect global sea levels to rise by another one to four feet this century. Best- and worst-case scenarios range from eight inches to 6.6 feet of sea level rise by 2100, according to the report.

Citing data published by AirNav, an aeronautical information provider, the transportation chapter of the report identifies the following airports with vulnerable runways: Oakland and San Francisco International airports in California; Honolulu International in Hawaii; Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport in Louisiana; Tampa, Miami and Fort Lauderdale international airports in Florida; Isla Grande Airport, Puerto Rico; Washington Reagan National Airport in Virginia; Philadelphia International Airport in Pennsylvania; Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey; and La Guardia and JFK International airports in New York.

The study cites the recent example of Hurricane Sandy, which disrupted operations at major airports in the Northeast U.S., as an indicator of what future storms and higher sea levels could bring. The website FlightStats.com reported that airlines canceled 20,254 flights originating and arriving in North America between October 27 and November 1 because of the hurricane and its aftermath; nearly half of the cancellations occurred at JFK, La Guardia and Newark Liberty airports. La Guardia shut down for three days due to flooding. Although scientists cannot tie Sandy directly to climate change, “there is a strong circumstantial case to be made that increased frequency of extreme events (as defined by climate scientists) will produce increased traffic and aviation delays,” the NCADAC study authors wrote.

The draft study notes that even routine weather delays “are compounded by inadequacies” in the current ATC system, and adds that the FAA’s ambitious NextGen ATC modernization effort should help reduce weather-related delays. After review by the public and the National Academies of Science, the NCADAC will submit its study to the government for incorporation in the Third National Climate Assessment.

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Troy Moore
on January 21, 2013 - 7:31pm

Quick, everybody move 500 miles inland before you drown! Or better yet, just let the Government handle it, after all, they are smarter than we are!

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Mike
on January 22, 2013 - 11:20am

I find it funny how liberals blame things like airplanes, corporate jets, cars, SUVs, etc... And now they put out this article acting like they're all concerned about the U.S. infrastructure... If they wanted to be honest with themselves, they would love nothing more to see every airport under water so it would eliminate ""Climate Change/Global Warning" (terms change by the day), caused by those obscene Corporate jets! Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy (again terms change by the day) was a Hurricane that happened during Hurricane season... How is this "Climate Change/Global Warming"?

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Kevin
on January 23, 2013 - 1:26pm

Seem like the longer the acronym a federal bureau has (NCADAC) the more effective they are at espousing "fuzzy science" as fact, and pissing away yet more of our great grand children's borrowed, interest-bearing, money.

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