As the climate changes, airports adapt

The impact of climate change has been measured and recorded worldwide. In the arctic, 3.3 trillion tons of ice has melted since 1992. In more temperate climates, weather events have become more frequent and extreme.[1] Severe storms have doubled since 1980. Floods have quadrupled.[2]

Impact seen at airports

Airports Adapt

Within the past month, 68 mph winds grounded flights at Reagan National Airport.[3] News of a confirmed tornado delayed flights and passengers were moved into shelters at Tulsa International Airport.[4] A similar warning near St. Louis caused delays at the St. Louis airport.[5] Also this month, severe storms caused low water pressure at Dulles International Airport, impacting several restaurants and concessions.[6]

In 2018, when Hurricane Florence threatened the Carolinas, more than 1300 flights were canceled. Eight airports were closed as the storm soaked the region.[7] Hurricane Michael disrupted flights to Tallahassee, Panama City, and Destin – Fort Walton Beach.[8]

Concern brings response

The global sea level is projected to rise more than 2 meters by the end of this century.[9] Miami, Florida (altitude 6.6 feet) would be certain to flood. Devasting impacts could reach far inland on every continent.

Runway Construction

Recognizing the potential for damages, delays, and flight cancellations, the Airport Council International (ACI) resolved[10] in June, 2018 to encourage member airports to conduct risk assessments to mitigate the potential impact on airport infrastructure and operations. The ACI also recommends that the assessments be done when developing master plans.

Based on its resolution, the ACI published a policy brief about Airports’ Resilience and Adaptation to a Changing Climate[11]. The brief includes case studies of best practice at six international airports and encourages peer learning among airport management teams. It also lists some of the airports that have already begun work on resilience and are adapting to climate change.

Vulnerability assessments at three New York City area airports (EWR, JFK, and LGA) were listed, as were the design guidelines for climate resilience at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) and three airports in California (OAK, SAN, and SFO).

The ACI noted that the list in the brief is “non-exhaustive”. For example, the 2013 Sustainability Action Plan at Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) was mentioned, but one at Orlando International Airport (MCO)[12] begun on the same year was not. In summarizing, the ACI noted that airport participation in global climate action participation has grown by 25% in the past year.

We at ecoPreserve would love to share what other airports are doing in response to the risk of climate change impact. Please leave a note on the Contact page. Your insights will be published in updates or additional articles this summer. Thank you!

[3] (subscription may be required)
[4] (subscription may be required)
[7] — Hurricane Florence
[8] — Hurricane Michael
[10] – Airports’ resilience and adaptation to a changing climate
[11] ACI Policy Brief — Downloadable .PDF
[12] — Environmental Initiatives

Alexa Stone
LEED AP, Sustainable Facility Professional, Envision Sustainability Professional - - Alexa has more than 25 years of experience in sustainable and Smart Cities development. Her strategic planning work has served local, state, and federal government, higher education, and private industry. Alexa founded ecoPreserve in 2009 as a team of 3 and has grown the company to over a dozen of the brightest sustainability and project management professionals in the industry.
Alexa Stone


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