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Think LaGuardia airport is bad now? Wait until it’s underwater

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Rising sea levels = bad

More than half of LaGuardia airport in NYC could be “premanently flooded” with a three-foot sea level rise.
Patrick Handrigan/Wikimedia Commons

If you think catching a flight in the New York City area is a nightmare today — out-of-this-world traffic jams, never ending tarmac delays, impossibly long security lines — just wait another 30 years. I promise you, it’s going to get much worse. Why, you ask? Climate change. Those airports are going to be mostly underwater.

A new report published this week by the Regional Plan Association, an urban research and advocacy organization, shows how the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut metropolitan areas are going to be affected by rising sea levels. And it ain’t pretty.

The region could see sea levels rise between one foot and six feet by the beginning of the next century. Sea levels could rise one foot as soon as the 2030s and three feet as soon as the 2080s. Such rising sea levels would affect as many as 619,000 residents, 308,000 homes, and more than 362,000 of today’s jobs, the report found. It would also totally mess up the region’s airports.

A map of LaGuardia airport from the RPA report

Teterboro Airport in New Jersey could be “permanently flooded” with as little as one foot of sea level rise. More than half of LaGuardia Airport in New York City, which serves over 28 million passengers every year, could be underwater with a three-foot sea level rise. And Newark Liberty and JFK, which serve a combined 92 million annual passengers, could experience flooding with three to six feet of sea level rise.

A map showing flooding at Teterboro airport

It’s not only about the airports, of course. The report shows that all coastal areas will be badly affected — including about 12,000 public housing units, the Metro-North Hudson train line, and several power plants. Iconic spots like the Giants Stadium, Coney Island, and the Jersey Shore will go underwater. And those beautiful seaside houses on Long Island? Yeah, those, too. The real estate listings of the near future are going to get a lot more interesting:

"Beautiful neighborhood! Won't be underwater for another 40 years. Enough time to raise your kids!"