Is Arctic ice melting faster than expected?

There was a news article late last month, discussing the rapid decline of Arctic Sea ice. I researched a bit further and found the charts and interpretations at the National Snow & Ice Data Center. It all indicates Arctic ice is melting faster than was expected. Of course, a great fear related to polar ice melting is that, based on the enormous amount of ice at the Earth’s poles and on Greenland, this rapid melting may raise the world’s oceans by 20-25′.

Arctic lowest ice extent hit a record low in September, and reduced to just a fraction more than 50% of the average minimal ice extent for the years 1979-2000. The ice is also thinning.

I then looked at some airport data and realized, we have a bunch of major US airports at risk of being flooded, because they sit on flat land close to sea level. These are all around or below 20′ mean sea level (MSL). I put together a quick list:

  • The three major airports in the New York area are;
    • Kennedy Airport [KJFK], at 14ft MSL
    • Newark Airport [KEWR], at 18ft MSL
    • and LaGuardia Airport [KLGA], at 21ft MSL
    • note also, Boston’s major airport [KBOS] is at 20ft MSL, while Washington’s Reagan National Airport [KDCA] is at 15ft MSL.
  • On the West Coast, San Diego [KSAN] is at 13ft MSL, while San Francisco [KSFO] is at 17ft MSL, and Oakland [KOAK] is at 9ft MSL. If commercial aviation is to continue to grow, San Jose [KSJC] will feel pressure to expand its operations.
  • In the southern U.S., Miami International [KMIA] is 8ft MSL, while Fort Lauderdale [KFLL] is at 9ft MSL, and both are on FAA’s short list of 35 OEP Airports. New Orleans is still recovering from Katrina, but its two airports ([KMSY] & [KNEW]) are at 7ft and 4ft MSL.
  • Vacation flying to Hawaii will be impacted; the Honolulu Airport [PHNL] is at 13ft MSL.

The takeaway may be this: if we do not get serious about managing and minimizing the rate of carbon consumption, we will see a time come soon when the environment is biting back, not just flooding low Pacific islands, but also taking away key parts of our aviation infrastructure.