EUROCONTROL – a pan-European civil-military organisation dedicated to supporting European aviation.
Whilst the link between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change is well understood, and the secondary impacts widely recognised, there is a lack of quantitative data informing aviation stakeholders on how climate change might impact their businesses and operations in the future.
In a bid to close the current knowledge gap, EUROCONTROL commissioned Egis in partnership with UK Met Office to produce a study on climate change risks for European aviation. The study presented a huge challenge due to the current lack of quantitative analysis in the area with which to compare or build upon
The approach and output of the study is therefore trailblazing in nature. Moreover, it is fundamental to helping the European aviation sector understand the character and scale of the risks posed, enabling them to act in a timely and proportionate manner to build in resilience to their plans for the future.
Role of Egis
The study investigated four key areas of risk for the industry:
- The impact of changes in storm patterns and intensity on flight operations
- The impact of sea level rise on European airport operations
- The impact of climate change on tourism demand
- The impact of changes in wind patterns on flight operations.
We worked closely with the Met Office between 2020 and 2021 to deliver the storm patterns, tourism and wind patterns work packages. The Met Office used advanced scientific methods to deliver bespoke climate projections up to the 2050 time-horizon. This was the basis for the impact analyses, largely conducted by Egis.
We also undertook the analysis on sea level rise using tailored inputs and GIS simulations to assess the level of marine flooding risk for coastal European airports. The work package harnessed a multidisciplinary team of aviation and environmental specialists from across Egis.
A number of important findings came out of the study that should help aviation stakeholders to plan and prepare for the impacts of climate change. The study also delivered some innovations in analysis that could have wider reaching benefits to aviation.
Increased intensity of storms will impact flight operations: It was found that whilst the frequency of major storms associated with ATFM delay will drop by 2050, the increased intensity of major storms that do ultimately affect flights is forecast to create more significant delay during these events. This is associated with higher horizontal flight inefficiency (expressed as a ratio between the length of actual trajectory and “achieved” distance), which is expected to rise from 3.5% to 4.0 – 4.2% on days with major storms by 2050.
Sea level rise will affect two-thirds of European coastal airports by 2090: A large proportion of coastal and low-lying airports in Europe are forecast to be at risk of some level of runway flooding by 2090. These typically smaller airports are unlikely to have existing defences and are often important for the local communities and economies. The outlook for large and medium airports at risk from sea level rise is not projected to change significantly across the century.
The period of optimal weather for summer tourism will widen: The study projects a lengthening period of favourable climate for general tourist activities in summer across the ECAC area by 2050. This could encourage more tourists to travel during shoulder months.
New methodology for wind pattern analysis could improve trajectory prediction: The impact of changing winds aloft is likely to remain roughly the same by 2050 and anticipated future changes in flight duration due to changing wind patterns are small. However, the innovative methods used by the Met Office in this study marks a key advancement in how changes in flight duration between airport and continent pairs are quantified. This methodology could provide a basis for improved trajectory prediction in the future.