Boris Johnson’s proposal for an airport in the Thames estuary is simply a re-statement of an idea that regularly crops up. Back in the 1970s it was Maplin Sands or Foulness island off the Essex coast. The same contrary ideas were posted – bad for the local environment, the birds won’t have a nesting area etc. All ideas I would totally agree with, however there has been a major change since then which undermines many of the anti arguments and perhaps indicates this latest re-hash is a trifle underdone.
The Thames is getting Deeper
The London Airport on an island in the Thames idea, linked by bridges to Isles of Grain, Sheppy and the Essex coast misses the point that the whole area – which is underwater now, will be even deeper in the not too distant future, so any islands need to be raised higher than any prospective sea level increase.
One Metre Sea Level Rise – maybe in as short as 30 years for us!
But, isn’t the supposed 1 metre sea level increase not for at least a year? Well not such a delay if the recent research from Detleff Stammer is correct. See: New Scientist article 12 July 2008 Atlantic Meltwater Threat commenting on Detlef Stammer’s work basically the simple and logical fact that next to thermal expansion, the major cause of sea level increase will be coming from the melting of the Greenland ice sheet.
Now, consider that the water from that melt has some distance to go to get to the Indian and Pacific Oceans, ie about 75% of the planets Oceans. Its hardly going to go through the relatively very narrow (40 miles) Berring Straights! The melt water is going to take some considerable time (about 30 years) to flow South and round the Capes (Good Hope and Horn) before it is able to start to average out globally.
And in numbers
Lets say there was ice loss leading to an average sea level increase of 30cm over 30years (ie the equivalent of 1 metre over 100 years), but if it takes 30 years for that water to migrate from the North Atlantic to average out over the world’s Oceans, that sea level increase will be multiplied many fold in the North Atlantic, good news for the Pacific Islands who will have a significant breathing space! Don’t forget that as last years meltwater flows south, there’s more backing up after it!
Do the Math
Atlantic = 25% of worlds oceans, 30cm average sea level increase melts from Greenland over a period of 30 years, takes 30 years to travel out of Atlantic.
Perhaps we should plan now for big problems?
Perhaps we are looking at a rapid sea level increase in our part of the world, something we need to prepare for now, rather than leaving it to our grandchildren, I’m 50, I would expect to see the ‘Hollywood style’ impact of global warming in my lifetime.
But, as long as the flow out of the Atlantic matches the rate of melting, we should see a fairly rapid sea level increase by say a 1 metre, but then it should stabilise as flow away from the Atlantic balances out the extra meltwater.
Okay, the numbers aren’t exact, but sea level increases are not going to be averaged out across the world instantly, we are relatively close to the major source or melting ice!
A new Thames Barrier
So, back to the Boris Johnson Thames Airport idea, change the bridges into barriers or Dykes as the Dutch would call them and not only will our Boris have resolved one of London’s immediate problems – the 3rd runway, but also built in London’s resilience for the next 100 and more years.
- Boris MK1 = An island Airport plus some bridges
- Boris Plus = The above plus Major sea defence works
The overall project would be Boris, plus the Environment Agency’s TG2100 which is a proposal for just this system of sea defences. 2100 refers to – lets leave it to our grandchildren – , but as per my comment above, it should be TG2030, the problem being clear and present! Also see: http://www.audacity.org/IA-17-04-08.htm
Its a shame that we have the likes of Paul Carter of KCC critical of the plan, I wonder if this is just anti Boris, we will certainly have the RSPB etc ganging up against Boris MKI, certainly against Boris Plus. But as to the birds, their mud flats will be an extra metre underwater within 30 years so they are going to have to look for somewhere alse anyway, in fact adding the barrage scheme might retain more mudflats than would otherwise be lost!
For London, “Boris Plus” will also establish it as the coastal city that will still be functioning in 100 years, certainly save it from the sure fact of disaster within 30! Add some more plus points, a rail connection to the continent that isn’t via London, improved links between Kent and Essex and the barrier might well emulate the proposed Severn Barrage and generate some energy!
I’m for it! Its just that there is one not so little problem, the USS Montgomery, a fully loaded WWII weapons ship sunk just off Sheerness and hangs like a sword of Damoclese over that town. Also see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/3578244.stm