The effects from climate change vary and their risks pose a diverse set of issues for airports. In some places, increases in precipitation will not only flood runways but overwhelm storm water systems, potentially impacting water quality compliance. Elsewhere, hotter days can impact engine performance, and damage aircraft tires and pavements. The projected increases in severe winter storms may create a “new normal” for airports unaccustomed to the increased snow removal requirements. As a result, climate change is likely to have subtle and dramatic effects on airports, introducing another adaptation challenge to airport operators. Airports occupy large acreage, often encompass multiple watersheds, and are sited in many diverse environments. The potential climate change impacts and adaptation actions will vary widely.
Department of transportation agencies and a number of states and their subdivisions are undertaking planning efforts to address adaptation to climate impacts. Recent guidance from the Council on Environmental Quality will require the FAA and other federal agencies to consider the effects of climate on proposed projects during National Environmental Policy Act review.
Research on the transportation sector’s resilience and adaptation to climate change has been growing for over a decade, yet there is very little on airports specifically. Research is needed to help airports assimilate the growing body of knowledge from other transportation sectors and to adapt practices for the airport environment.
The objective of this research is to develop a climate change adaptation guidebook for airports that identifies potential impacts from climate change; assesses related airport risks; and provides guidance for managing related uncertainty, developing a prioritized actions plan, and implementing the actions plan as an adaptive management process. In addition to a step-by-step, how-to manual, the guidebook should include at a minimum:
- Background information and justification for all size airports to understand the need for airports to conduct climate change risk assessments.
- A comprehensive list of potential impacts (direct and indirect) to airports and their regional environs from climate change. Potential impacts may include physical, operational, and business impacts such as planning, design, construction, operations, maintenance, redevelopment, financial, security, human resources, air service, and tenant relations. Also briefly describe the potential secondary effects that may develop as a result of implementing certain adaptation actions.
- A screening tool to determine the magnitude of impacts and risks from climate change as a preliminary evaluation.
- An inventory of important elements and outputs of the assessment, including a template for developing and implementing the action plans.
- A description, comparison, and evaluation of existing adaptation planning frameworks (e.g., tools, models) that are currently available to airports for climate change assessment.
STATUS: Research is complete and published as ACRP Report 147: Climate Change Adaptation Planning: Risk Assessment for Airports.
The final report is available for download on the TRB website as ACRP Report 147: Climate Change Adaptation Planning: Risk Assessment for Airports.