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]

5 Odd Suggestions About How To Fight the Dust Bowl

It was a disaster of mankind’s own making. By the 1930s, chronic overfarming in the Great Plains had devastated the native grasses that had held topsoils in place. As the plants were uprooted, the dirt dried and loosened, setting the stage for an environmental catastrophe.

In 1931, a drought hit the region—it would last eight years—and the exposed soil was blown away by a series of gigantic dust storms. Mountain-sized dirt clouds became a common sight all over Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico. Nobody who lived there had ever experienced anything like it: skies were blackened, barnyards were buried, and millions of farmers became homeless refugees. As the crisis raged on, people piped up with some wild ideas about how to finally put an end to this “dust bowl.” Here are five of the most peculiar suggestions.

1. PAVE OVER THE GREAT PLAINS.

Many well-meaning citizens assumed that if they could just cover up the loose dirt somehow, it would stop getting blown around so much. New Jersey’s Barber Asphalt Company reached out to the federal government and offered to pave over the afflicted area. Their price? Five dollars per acre. Sounds like a bargain—until you consider the fact that the dust bowl had engulfed around 100 million acres. Meanwhile, a Pittsburgh steel manufacturer wanted to install wire netting over multiple counties, and a company known as Sisalkraft proposed blanketing the ground with its rugged brand of waterproof paper. A similar idea involved laying concrete down over every field in the region and leaving a few holes for future crops.

2. COVER THE TERRAIN WITH BROKEN-DOWN CARS.

One North Carolinian’s suggestion ideally would have killed two birds with one stone. As environmental historian Donald Worster wrote in his book Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s, “Mrs. M.L. Yearby of Durham, North Carolina saw an opportunity to beautify her own state by shipping its junked autos out to the plains to anchor the blowing fields.”

3. BOMB THE SKY.


Getty Images

Explosives expert Tex Thornton tried ending the drought with dynamite. In a sales pitch given to the citizens of Dalhart, Texas, he explained that if the explosive was launched skywards and detonated aerially, immediate rainfall would follow. Embracing Thornton’s idea, the town gave him $300 to cover his expenses. Judgment day came on May 1, 1935, when the would-be hero set up shop by a local lake. Thousands of curious onlookers watched from afar as Thornton tied balloons to his dynamite sticks, which had been fitted with timed fuses.

Things quickly went awry once a violent dust storm arrived on the scene. The high winds made it too dangerous for Thornton to even think about releasing the explosives, especially now that a crowd was present. So in a last-ditch effort to deliver the goods, he buried his dynamite and set it off under the ground. Thornton’s Plan B backfired spectacularly: The blast just propelled extra dirt into the dusty atmosphere.

After a few more attempts, rain did come to Dalhart—as well as in regions too far away to be affected by his explosions. A victorious Thornton left Dalhart supposedly saying, “I’m mighty glad that the people of Dalhart and the Panhandle got moisture—and if I had anything to do with it, I’m doubly glad."

4. USE DEAD REPTILES AS YARD DECOR.

Contemporary folklore claimed that if you hung a deceased snake belly-up over a fence post, it would rain the next morning. When all else failed, some farmers actually tried this during the dust bowl years. Ironically, live snakes would have been far more useful to them. Back then, famished jackrabbits regularly turned up in droves to devour the few crops that were still being grown on the Great Plains. In western Kansas, the situation was so bad that citizens responded by organizing what became known as “jackrabbit drives.” Those involved formed huge lines and marched side-by-side for miles on end. Using their own bodies, they’d corral every rabbit in sight into an enclosure and club them to death. Yet if the species’ natural predators—like certain snakes—had been a bit more common, this drastic measure might not have been necessary. Who knows?

5. BRING THE RAIN WITH A FAUX MILITARY BATTLE.

Many of the more intense showdowns in the American Civil War, including Gettysburg, were followed by severe rainfall. This and other accounts over the years helped give rise to the once widespread belief that artillery caused downpours—a notion that was still fairly pervasive in the 1930s (and was broadly the same hypothesis that Thornton was working with).

One soldier from Denver petitioned the federal government for $20 million worth of ammunition, after which he would round up 40,000 members of the Civilian Conservation Corps for a couple of phony battles. After some non-lethal cannon fire, the rains would return—or at least, that was the plan.

“Try it, if it works, send me a check for $5000 for services rendered,” wrote the soldier.

This story originally ran in 2016.

The Philippines Is Spending $14 Billion to Build a 'Pollution-Free' City Near Manila

iStock.com/Nikada
iStock.com/Nikada

Manila has an air pollution problem. The capital of the Philippines, home to 1.8 million people, has been called one of the worst cities in the world for traffic jams—and its reliance on cars has only exacerbated the problem.

So the country decided to start from scratch and create its own utopia. As Business Insider reports, the country plans to spend $14 billion to build a new, “pollution-free” city. Dubbed New Clark City, this “twin city” to Manila will be located about 75 miles away from the capital. The hope is that 2 million city dwellers will be persuaded to pick up and move there, which would also help ease congestion in Manila.

New Clark will reportedly be built over a 30-year period, and when it's done it will be larger than Manhattan. It will be divided into five districts designed to serve different purposes: government, recreation, business, education, and agriculture. However, two-thirds of the land will be devoted to parks, farmland, and green space.

The plans also call for innovative technologies to be rolled out in New Clark, including drones, self-driving electric cars, and eco-friendly methods of conserving water and energy. As CNN reports, the city will be situated at a higher elevation than Manila in order to safeguard it from environmental disasters like typhoons and floods.

The project is being developed by BCDA Group, a local government-owned corporation, and Surbana Jurong, a Singaporean government-owned consultancy company. They plan to build a sports complex, government buildings, and housing units for government employees before the Southeast Asian Games kick off in the Philippines in December 2019.

It’s certainly ambitious, but as Business Insider points out, there will likely be challenges. The country “struggles with economic development,” it notes, and similar projects in China have failed and turned into ghost cities instead.

[h/t Business Insider]

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