Airports At Water’s Edge Battle Rising Sea Levels

Read the full story from NPR.

From the ramp tower 120 feet above the runway, it’s clear Philadelphia International Airport is surrounded by water. There is wetland, a network of creeks and, just a couple hundred yards away, the tidal Delaware River leading out to the bay. As with many airports, the original idea was to build on a large tract of land convenient to a city but far enough away from homes and tall buildings. Often, that meant coastal wetlands and landfill.

Now, such airports are threatened.

A federal report lists Philadelphia International as one of 13 major U.S. 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.

Climate scientists, city planners and engineers say that will become more common as sea levels rise, storm surges and intense rain events worsen, and — in some areas — the land slowly sinks. Increasingly, it won’t take a major tropical storm to shut down an airport.

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