The scientific community has reported unequivocally that the earth is warming; the global mean temperature has increased by 0.76OC over the last 150 years (IPCC, 2007). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in their fourth and most recent assessment of global climate change in 2007, concluded that the cause of this warming is rising greenhouse gas concentrations as a result of human activities, and warming will continue with a best estimate of 2.8OC by the end of the current century (IPCC A1B scenario).
It is difficult to generalise about the climate changes that this rise in greenhouse gases will produce because of the current limitations in climate modelling and the significant regional variations in climate change that are projected. However, the principle changes that are expected to occur include sea-level rise, temperature increases, precipitation changes, and increases in extreme weather and storms.
|Adapted from IPCC, 2007||Level of Uncertainty||Probability of Occurrence|
|Sea-level rise||Virtually certain||≥99%|
|Decreases in very cold days||Virtually certain||≥99%|
|Increases in Arctic temperatures||Virtually certain||≥99%|
|Later onset of seasonal freeze, earlier onset of seasonal thaw||Virtually certain||≥99%|
|Increases in very hot days and heat waves||Very likely||≥90%|
|Increases in intense precipitation events||Very likely||≥90%|
|Increases in drought conditions for some regions||Likely||≥66%|
|Changes in seasonal precipitation and flooding patterns||Likely||≥66%|
|Increases in hurricane intensity||Likely||≥66%|
|Increased intensity of cold-season storms, with increases in winds, waves and storm surges||Likely||≥66%|
Aviation in general, and airports, like other transport operations and infrastructure, is vulnerable to many of these projected climate changes. Some specific examples of how climate changes may impact on aviation and airports include:
These are just a few of the many examples that CATE has identified from its work in this area. Airports that are poorly prepared can expect infrastructure failures, operational disruptions and passenger discomfort, leading to high recovery costs and reputational harm.
There has only been a limited amount of research to date on how projected climate changes will affect aviation and airports. This topic is an emerging one and further research is required to explore the nature of climate change impacts on aviation, and how the industry can plan for these changes. It is important to consider this in the context of how the industry operates and its short term commercial focus.
Pure and applied research studies
CATE staff have been actively involved in research and consultancy in key areas associated with climate changes and aviation. Projects have included: