From La Guardia Airport in New York to Kansai International Airport in Japan, hundreds of coastal airports are at risk of flooding during extreme weather. And as sea levels rise, even more will be vulnerable.

“Some of the biggest and most significant airports in the global airline network are often built in these low-lying, high-risk areas,” says Richard Dawson of Newcastle University in the UK.

His research shows that more than 350 airports could face flooding by the end of the century – even if the world were to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement. And if climate change continues unchecked, almost 600 airports will be at risk.

Dawson says many airports in wealthy nations can adapt by building protective structures or relocating airports. But small island nations may lack funding or space.

“And although they don’t operate many flights – sometimes we’re talking once a week maybe, maybe even less – those are key lifelines to the inhabitants of those islands,” he says.

So if their airports flood, small islands could struggle to acquire critical food, medical supplies, and other goods.

Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak/ChavoBart Digital Media.