Airports all across the world are proactively protecting their infrastructure from climate change’s increasingly unpredictable effects. Airports are adjusting to a fast-changing environment by moving delicate electrical equipment, upgrading cooling systems, and strengthening runways.

John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York is prepared for more severe weather events like storm surges and coastal floods as part of a $19 billion renovation. The JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark airports are owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which is aware of the pressing need for climate resilience.

Efforts to Reduce Heat Impact

The Alaska Department of Transportation installed insulation and stabilized runways in regions like Noatak and Deering because melting permafrost in the state is harming runways. Additionally, Europe must build runways that can withstand the increasingly unpredictable temperature variations.

Although the aviation sector has set a target of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, investments in airport infrastructure are now necessary due to the negative consequences of climate change. According to a 2021 analysis from Newcastle University and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in the UK, rising sea levels alone might require a startling $57 billion investment to maintain current risk levels by the end of the century.

Airport cooling systems, which are necessary not just for passenger comfort but also to protect crucial electrical equipment from overheating, were put under tremendous stress this past summer by heatwaves that swept across the US, Europe, and Asia. While London Luton Airport’s runway broke under the hot UK temperatures, Frankfurt Airport in Germany experienced surprise downpours.

Further Measures Being Taken

Each runway is customized for its unique climate, using various asphalt compositions that can endure a range of temperatures. For instance, runways in Dubai are built to withstand higher temperatures than those in the UK, which is currently experiencing extended heatwaves.

In order to improve water drainage, Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport raised and slopped its runways. It also developed a rainwater collection system that can handle higher precipitation for the foreseeable future. In addition, Schiphol is improving its urban environment by putting in shaded walking and cycling paths, better ventilation, growing trees, and heat-resistant surfaces.

The New York Port Authority is elevating or moving buildings, moving electric substations on rooftops, and installing flood-control equipment in response to the mounting hazards posed by climate change. These precautions are based on the knowledge gained from Hurricane Sandy in 2012, which severely damaged LaGuardia.

At Nice Airport, water usage is restricted with an emphasis on lowering industrial water consumption because of a lack of water and high temperatures in France.

Even the physics of flying are affected by climate change since warmer air is less dense and so provides less lift and power to aircraft. To manage weight restrictions, this may necessitate longer runways or smaller seating arrangements.

There is an increasing need to adapt and improve airport infrastructure as the aviation sector recovers from the epidemic and the climate continues to deteriorate. Airports and airlines have been urged to increase resilience in order to prevent further harm by the European airspace coordinator, Eurocontrol.

Dangers of Extreme Temperatures

Runways may expand and crack as a result of extreme temperature swings, which are becoming more frequent as a result of climate change. Since such solutions are more expensive, many airports are looking into material combinations that can survive both extreme heat and cold.

The price of climate-related improvements varies based on the region and particular airport problems. Tens of thousands of dollars are being spent annually on routine runway inspections and maintenance, and these costs are predicted to increase due to climate change. Major runway repairs can cost up to $200,000, and full resurfacing projects can cost up to $100 million.

Many airports across the world were not built to withstand temperatures beyond 50 degrees Celsius, making them vulnerable to faulty pavement and other infrastructure problems if climate change is allowed to proceed unchecked. Airports need to move quickly to address climate change in order to secure the future of international air transport.

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