The majority of airports along California’s coastline will face more frequent flooding in the coming decades, a new study has found.
Most Californians live near the Pacific Ocean in major cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego. But these cities, along with their major airports, face increasing threats from storm surge, coastal erosion and rising sea levels which are expected to climb as much as eight inches in the next 30 years due to the climate crisis.
A study, published on Monday by University of California-Berkeley, discovered that 39 out of 43 (90 per cent) of the state’s coastal airports have “assets” like runways, terminals and access roads exposed to flooding that could disrupt operations in the next 20 to 40 years.
The first-of-its-kind assessment looked at how projected flooding this century would not only impact the airport itself but the roads, communication and navigation systems beyond its perimeter which are essential to keep it running.
“It’s important to recognize that critical assets for airport operations may lie outside airport boundaries,” said Sarah Lindbergh, who led the study at UC- Berkeley.
The new analysis shows that many more airports face flooding risks than previous studies which only looked at what would occur inside the grounds.
While the impact remains unclear, “we were surprised to see that most of the airport assets could see a flooding event sooner than 2100 - in the next 20 years,” Ms Lindbergh added.
Some 16 airports could see runways and taxiways underwater while 23 facilities face flooding to access roads and navigation systems. The list includes Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), one of the top five busiest airports in the world. Flooding impacts at LAX could also have significant impact because it is responsible for nearly half the airport cargo landed in the state, the study notes.
Several airports need to be urgently adapted to the flooding risk, the report found. Among those facing most urgent need are San Francisco International Airport, Oakland International Airport and Murray Field Airport in Eureka.
Flooding at airports could have a ripple effect of delays, congestion, and cancellations for people and goods on California’s highways and railways, the researchers found.