New research from the Met Office highlights potential problems with dense fog at the proposed new airport
A Thames Estuary airport is considerably more likely to be affected by fog than Heathrow, new research has found.
The study by the Met Office, commissioned by Medway Council in response to claims that an estuary hub would be “just as foggy”, looked at how many hours of fog there would be at the new airport and how many people would be affected.
Data taken from a weather station at the estuary over five years showed it would be more susceptible to foggy conditions, when visibility falls below 1,000m.
Such conditions would mean traffic controllers having to increase airspace between planes so there is more time to react to any problems which would subsequently slow arrivals and departures and clog up the process.
The authors of the report said: “Given that any airport in the Thames Estuary would be operating 24 hours a day with considerably more passenger numbers than Heathrow, it is reasonable to conclude that a significantly larger number of people are likely to be affected by fog in the Thames Estuary.
“This is enhanced when you consider the data which shows that a large amount of fog occurs during the night, something that Heathrow is able to mitigate given that it does not operate 24 hours a day, but a Thames estuary airport will not have the same luxury.”
The report followed claims by Huw Thomas from Foster and Partners –Lord Foster’s firm –that an estuary airport would be “just as foggy” as Heathrow.
Lord Foster is the architect behind plans for a £20bn airport on the Isle of Grain.
The Met Office said fog had more of an impact on arrivals than departures and that a Thames Estuary hub would be almost three times more likely to suffer from dense fog during peak arrival times, when visibility falls below 150m, than Heathrow.
For departures, it is 4.5 times more likely.
The study also found that, based on the estimated number of flights and passengers, some 115,132 people would be affected by fog at an estuary airport every year.
This latest research has given the campaign against such an airport an extra boost as the fight pushes on ahead of the eagerly awaited aviation review in the coming autumn.
Medway Council said it commissioned the study from the Met Office to add weight to the anti-airport campaign.
The research provided a breakdown of an hourly basis, over five years from January 2007-December 2011, of the visibility at separate weather stations situated at Heathrow airport and at the Thames Estuary.
A Medway Council spokesman said: “Research found that the Thames Estuary region is actually three times more susceptible to foggy conditions than Heathrow airport.
“An airport on the estuary would not only cost tens of billions to build, it would also be on the wrong side of London and have a devastating impact on local communities.”