Even a modest rise in sea level, triggered by rising global temperatures, would bring 100 airports below mean sea level by 2100, according to a new study.
Scientists from Newcastle University modeled the risk of flight routes being disrupted as a result of the increasing risk of flooding caused by rising sea levels.
Publication of the results in the journal Climate risk managementProfessor Richard Dawson and Aaron Yesudian from Newcastle University's School of Engineering analyzed the location of more than 14,000 airports around the world and their exposure to storm surges for current and future sea levels. The researchers also looked at the connectivity and air travel of airports prior to COVID-19, as well as their current flood protection levels.
They found that 269 airports are currently threatened by coastal flooding. A temperature rise of 2 ° C – in line with the Paris Agreement – would put 100 airports below mean sea level and 364 airports at risk of flooding. If the global mean rise in temperature exceeds this value, up to 572 airports are at risk by 2100, causing major disruptions without appropriate adjustment.
The team developed a global ranking of airports at risk from sea level rise. Both the probability of flooding from extreme sea levels and the extent of flood protection and the effects on flight disruptions are taken into account. Airports are at risk in Europe, North America, and Oceania, with those in East, Southeast Asia and the Pacific dominating the top 20 list of airports with the highest risk.
Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi (BKK) and Shanghai Pudong (PVG) airports topped the list, while London City is the UK's highest risk airport.
Professor Dawson said: "These coastal airports are disproportionately important to the global airline network and by 2100, between 10% and 20% of all routes will be at risk of disruption. Sea level rise therefore poses a serious risk to global passenger and cargo movements significant costs for damage and disruption. "
"In addition, some airports, for example on low-lying islands, play a critical role in providing economic, social and medical lifelines."
Adjustment options for coastal airports include increased flood protection, land procurement, and relocation.
Professor Dawson added, "The cost of adaptation will be low in the context of global infrastructure spending. However, in some locations, some airports will become unprofitable due to rising sea levels, limited economic resources or space for alternative locations."