How Rising Sea Levels Are Threatening the World's Airports

Paula Bronstein, Getty Images
Paula Bronstein, Getty Images

As sea levels continue to rise thanks to climate change, everything from our coastal infrastructure to our internet service will be affected. One of the industries that will be hit the hardest is air travel.

As The New York Times reports, about 25 of the 100 busiest airports on Earth were built less than 32 feet above sea level. In cities such as Shanghai, Rome, Barcelona, Bangkok, and New York, airports are even more vulnerable, with runways sitting less than about 16 feet above sea level.

For decades, constructing airports on low, flat areas close to the water has made sense. These areas provide clear avenues for aircrafts to take off and land, and they can be close to the major hubs that airports serve while also being out of the way enough to reduce the potential for noise complaints.

But the benefits of the geography come with unintended consequences, as was demonstrated the first week of September when Typhoon Jebi submerged the tarmac at the Kansai International Airport in Japan, stranding roughly 3000 travelers. And a storm doesn't need to reach deadly levels of intensity to ground flights: St. Paul Downtown Airport in Minnesota has been overrun by the nearby Mississippi River so many times that it now has a portable flood wall it can erect in flash flood situations. More airports are also responding to the growing threat of flooding with protective walls, pumps, and drainage systems of their own.

Even if coastal airports are able to survive rising sea levels, global warming will still present them with new challenges. A hotter world means thinner air—which makes it difficult for planes to achieve lift-off. Turbulence is also projected to increase by 149 percent in the coming decades thanks to higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. One way airlines could combat the problem is by reducing their own carbon emissions, of which they contribute roughly 947 million tons a year.

[h/t The New York Times]

How to Build an Igloo, According to a Canadian Film From 1949

iStock.com/vovashevchuk
iStock.com/vovashevchuk

Centuries before you started building snow forts in your backyard, the Inuit had mastered using snow as construction material. This 1949 video, produced by the National Film Board of Canada (and with narration that uses some outdated terminology), illustrates how exactly people native to the Arctic can erect warm, temporary homes using nothing but a knife and the snow beneath their feet. The artifact was spotted by The Kid Should See This.

The igloo (or iglu in Inuktitut) in this footage takes around 90 minutes to erect, but a similar structure can be built by a skilled person in as little as 40 minutes. To put together the shelter, the two men carve up firm, packed snow into blocks that are about 2 feet tall, 3 feet wide, and 4 inches thick.

After the first row of blocks is placed in a circle on the ground, the builder slices a section of the blocks to create a slope. Each row that's placed on this foundation will spiral upward, creating a shape in which the blocks support their own weight. By the time the keystone block is fitted into the top, the igloo is strong enough to support the weight of a man.

The final steps are carving a doorway out of the bottom of the structure and plugging up the cracks with additional snow from outside. Even on a frigid Arctic night, the temperature of a well-insulated igloo can reach 40 degrees above the temperature outside. And the warmer the igloo gets over time, the stronger it becomes: The heat from the Sun and the bodies of the inhabitants melt the outer layers of the blocks, and that water eventually freezes to ice, giving the home more insulation and structural integrity.

If you aren't ready to build an igloo, here are some less intimidating snow projects to tackle this winter.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

Charge Your Gadgets Anywhere With This Pocket-Sized Folding Solar Panel

Solar Cru, YouTube
Solar Cru, YouTube

Portable power banks are great for charging your phone when you’re out and about all day, but even they need to be charged via an electrical outlet. There's only so much a power bank can do when you’re out hiking the Appalachian Trail or roughing it in the woods during a camping trip.

Enter the SolarCru—a lightweight, foldable solar panel now available on Kickstarter. It charges your phone and other electronic devices just by soaking up the sunshine. Strap it to your backpack or drape it over your tent to let the solar panel’s external battery charge during the day. Then, right before you go to bed, you can plug your electronic device into the panel's USB port to let it charge overnight.

It's capable of charging a tablet, GPS, speaker, headphones, camera, or other small wattage devices. “A built-in intelligent chip identifies each device plugged in and automatically adjusts the energy output to provide the right amount of power,” according to the SolarCru Kickstarter page.

A single panel is good “for small charging tasks,” according to the product page, but you can connect up to three panels together to nearly triple the electrical output. It takes roughly three hours and 45 minutes to charge a phone using a single panel, for instance, or about one hour if you’re using three panels at once. The amount of daylight time it takes to harvest enough energy for charging will depend on weather conditions, but it will still work on cloudy days, albeit more slowly.

The foldable panel weighs less than a pound and rolls up into a compact case that it can easily be tucked away in your backpack or jacket pocket. It’s also made from a scratch- and water-resistant material, so if you get rained out while camping, it won't destroy your only source of power.

You can pre-order a single SolarCru panel on Kickstarter for $34 (less than some power banks), or a pack of five for $145. Orders are scheduled to be delivered in March.

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