How global warming makes flying more expensive

A new climate vulnerability study notes that increasing temperature will stress Colorado airports that need cooler temperatures to gain loft. Photo/Allen best

Rising temperature will stress high-elevation Colorado airports as high temperatures make it more difficult for planes to rapidly gain loft, as necessary to avoid surrounding mountains at take-off.
Photo/Allen Best

Cargo limits and other challenges (and some benefits) of rising temperatures 

by Allen Best

Rising 2 degrees Fahrenheit over the last 30 years, the average annual statewide temperature in Colorado will rise 2.5 to 6 degrees more in Colorado during the next 35 years, according to climate change models.

How will that impact Colorado, including its mountain towns?

A new report, “Colorado Climate Change Vulnerability Study,” digs broad and relatively deep to answer that question, coming up with answers that go far beyond the traditional answer about shortened ski season.

Consider, for example, that hot air is less dense, which reduces mass flowing over the wings of airports to create lift. The planes can carry less weight, including fewer passengers, squeezing profitability.

Because of this, runways at airports serving the Vail and Aspen areas have each been lengthened by 1,000 feet in recent years, to enable expanded use during summer months.

Denver International already has the world’s longest public runway, but could face the same squeeze from rising temperatures, with “summer cargo losses as high as 19 percent by 2030 due to increased temperatures and water vapor in the atmosphere,” says the report, which was ordered by the Legislature and administered by the Colorado Energy Office.

Might technological advances overcome this limitation? Possibly. Airplanes have become far more fuel efficient in recent years, for example. But it’s unknown.

Streets and highways might also be taxed.

“Road materials have a limited range of that tolerance, and road buckling occurs with sustained temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit,” the report says. “Bridges are particularly vulnerable to high temperatures, which stress bridge integrity. Extended periods of extreme heat shorten pavement life and cause bridges to expand, with negative economic impacts.”

Water infrastructure will also be taxed by climate change. Our reservoirs and other delivery systems were created for the 20th century climate. In the 21st century, we could eventually have more snow and rain, at least in places. Climate models remain fuzzy. But rising temperatures alone have huge repercussions. Spring during the last 30 years has sprung, on average, one to four weeks earlier.

Runoff by mid-century could come as much as six weeks earlier. Longer, hotter summers will strain capacities of our reservoirs. We risk more severe droughts. Storage will become even more important.

Cheesman Reservoir, located on the South Platte  southwest of Denver, holds water that is partly drawn from Dillion Reservoir. April 2013 photo/Allen Best

Cheesman Reservoir, located on the South Platte southwest of Denver, holds water that is partly drawn from Dillion Reservoir. April 2013 photo/Allen Best

Enlargement of Gross Reservoir, located in the foothills southwest of Boulder, can also be seen, at least in part, as a response to the potential for longer summers and more intensified droughts. The larger reservoir will hold expanded diversions from the Fraser and Williams Fork valleys on the Western Slope.

Ski areas and outdoor recreation will also have adjustments. Colorado’s high elevation and cold temperatures buffer some effects of climate change, the report notes, at least in the short term. But the window of profitability will be squeezed, and use of snowmaking to ensure sliding surfaces for early-winter crowds will be challenged by warm temperatures.

One study from Aspen is noted: resort managers need at least 12 hours per day at or below the 28 to 32 degree Fahrenheit in order to engage in effect operations.



About Allen Best

Allen Best is a Colorado-based journalist. He publishes a subscription-based e-zine called Mountain Town News, portions of which are published on the website of the same name, and also writes for a variety of newspapers and magazines.
This entry was posted in Climate change, Colorado, Mountain towns and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to How global warming makes flying more expensive

  1. Mike Haseler says:

    Why waste money on these reports when you could get witch-doctors to say what “could” happen for a fraction of the price?

    The fact is that climate has changed and always will change. That means we could see warmer periods and we could see cooler periods. But if the people producing these reports don’t understand the simple fact of the climate like that then they really can’t be trusted on anything else.

    Here’s what I found when I looked at how the climate actually changes not how some bogus academics whose failure to predict the climate gives them no right to call themselves “experts” let alone scientists.

    “This article sets out to test this assertion on CET the longest available temperature series. I find the CET data rejects the hypothesis of ‘climate change’ (>58%) & current ‘global warming’ (>72%) and that overall global temperature has not changed significantly more than would be expected. ”

    • Tom Sabbatini says:

      Amen, Mike H. This is a worthless article. The editor must really be hurting to create something constructive and truthful. This does not qualify. I would be embarrassed if I had written or authorized this ruffage.

  2. We know how much the models has missed over the last 3 decades, some up to 560%
    To write a story like this one, is just embarrasing. Journalists without any science knowledge reduced to dishonest activist fools. But keepit up, laughing is healthy 🙂

  3. paul says:

    the global regional climate weather warming cooling thingey “is real”! Maybe.

  4. Lt.Loy Oakes, USNR says:

    Your Denver Post article was the typical liberal rant using all the skewed and flawed “models” that have been produced by the carbon and CO2 haters. The UN has admitted they cheated on their facts and extrapolated on the high side. The South American temperature reporting sights also admitted they raised the temps they reported. Russian scientists have reached the conclusion that we are in a cooling trend but there is nothing that people can do to stop the climate from cycling. Read, “The Dark Winter” by John Casey a long time space and climate researcher, who concludes that the sun is going into a period of less output. You must be trying to get a grant from the Al Gore foundation so just stop the propaganda.

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