By Lise Alves, Contributing Reporter

MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – Climate change is accelerating sea level rise and threatening infrastructures along the coast. Some of the many structures threatened along the U.S. coastlines are airports, and many are already taking steps to mitigate the effects of rising waters on their facilities.

Airports along coastlines are threatened by sea level rise, Miami Beach, Miami, Florida, News
Airports along coastlines are threatened by sea level rise, photo internet reproduction.

Flat, low-lying land very near the coastline, far from residential areas and with few obstacles for take-off and landing were once seen as ideal locations to build airports. Now, however, with sea level rising these regions carry extra risks and airports in flood-prone areas have had to invest in protective countermeasures.

To guard against sea level rise and flooding risks, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has strongly urged construction of higher runways, protective sea walls, better drainage systems and early warning systems against flooding.

“Our design specifications are taking into consideration possible climate-change impacts. These will ensure that we are a step ahead of potential issues such as rising sea level,” Diane Gerace from the Philadelphia International Public affairs office tells The Miami Beach Times.

Located on the banks of the Delaware River, studies have shown that by 2040, Philadelphia could face floods of four feet, which would not only put thousands of residents at risk but also its international airport, which in 2018 catered to almost 380,000 flights and 32 million passengers.

Among the projects implemented at Philadelphia International are airport-wide contingency plans for passenger and employee’s protection and safety during severe weather events, protection for flood events, including storm water pump redundancy and hardening of systems, submersible pumps, redundant power feeds, redundant communication feeds, as well as flood barriers, says Gerace.

San Francisco International Airport is working on the construction of a new shoreline protection wall around the entire perimeter of the airport, which would protect runways and terminals until at least the year 2085 from a sea level rise of up to 36 inches.

Across the Bay, Oakland International plans to strengthen and raise by two feet the 4.5-mile dike that separates its main runway and terminals from the Bay.

Map of US airports vulnerable to sea level rise, Miami Beach, Miami, Florida, News
Map of U.S. airports vulnerable to sea level rise, photo courtesy of U.S. Global Change Research Program.

In 2014 the Massachusetts Port Authority, which oversees Boston’s Logan International announced a flood-proofing design project that called for new flood barriers in doorways and staircases, and using aquarium glass that can hold back ocean waves. The airport has also raised its electrical equipment to keep it away from rising waters.

All these projects are costing airports located along the US coast millions of dollars, but if not done, says the Global Change Research Program, these costs may be much higher and disrupt not only cities and communities along the seaboard but also inland.

“Impacts on coastal energy and transportation infrastructure driven by sea level rise and storm surge have the potential for cascading costs and disruptions across the country,” stated the Fourth Nacional Climate Assessment report issued by U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP).

According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the average global sea level rose by 2.6 inches between 1993 and 2014 and continues to climb by about .8 of an inch annually.


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