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The impact: Rising seas threaten reclaimed airports

Global airport operators, faced with rising sea levels and more powerful storms as the climate changes, are starting to invest in measures including higher runways, seawalls and better drainage systems to future-proof immovable assets.

In early September, a seawall at Japan’s Kansai International Airport built on a reclaimed island near Osaka, was breached during Typhoon Jebi.

Name of imageAirports at water’s edge are battling rising sea levels. A Google maps view of the San Francisco International Airport. A US federal report also 13 major US airports that have at least one runway within 12 feet of current sea levels. There are many more at risk around the world, and some have already faced flight disruptions or closure from storms and floods, according to the report. Google Maps

17-day shutdown

The Kansai runway was flooded and it took 17 days to fully restore airport operations, at a high cost to the region’s economy as well as the dozens of airlines that cancelled flights.

Major airports in Hong Kong, mainland China and North Carolina were also closed due to tropical storms last month.

Name of imageChek Lap Kok is an island in the western waters of Hong Kong. It was only partially leveled when it was assimilated via land reclamation into the 12.48 square kilometres (4.82 sq mi) island for the current Hong Kong International Airport, which opened for commercial aviation in 1998. Some 1,200 flights were cancelled as typhoon Mangkhut hit Hong Kong in September.  File

Such incidents highlight the disaster risks to investors and insurers exposed to a sector with an estimated $262 billion (Dh961.5 billion) of projects under construction globally, according to Fitch Solutions.

Earl Heffintrayer, the lead analyst covering US airports at Moody’s, said the risk of climate change became apparent to investors after Superstorm Sandy closed major New York airports for days in 2012.

Name of imageAmerican Airlines, which operated more than 700 flights a day from Charlotte, shut down flight operations in their North Carolina hub as Hurricane Florence hammered the state on the US east coast in September. Supplied

San Francisco International Airport, built on reclaimed land that is slowly sinking, has completed a feasibility study on a $383 million project to make the airport more resilient to sea level rises on its 8 miles (12.9 km) of bay front shoreline by 2025.

Source: Gulf News


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