It would take 80 Gatwicks to be as noisy as Heathrow

We checked the noise pollution level coming from five busiest airports in England. The result? Difference between Heathrow and the rest is colossal.
Data below shows how many people were affected by the noise of 57 decibels (level of alarm clock noise)  coming from the airports between 2000 and 2013.

Number of people affected by noise from the busiest airports in the UK
Number of people affected by noise from the busiest airports in the UK

Noise pollution in measured in Leq. As the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority explains:

Continuous noise is usually measured as Leq, which means the ‘equivalent continuous sound level’. This basically works out the average sound level for a specific location over a defined measurement period.

In the UK, Leq noise contours – like height contours on an Ordnance Survey map, but showing increasing noise levels – are produced for the average summer day, measured from 16 June to 15 September, between 7.00am and 11.00pm.

If Leq is on average over 57dBA all day long, it begins to be of significant annoyance to the local community, CAA says.

Heathrow is the busiest airport but…

As we can see, when it comes to noise pollution, Heathrow dwarfs other major airports in the UK: in 2013, 263,000 people were affected by the excessive noise coming from Heathrow. In contrast, only 3,300 people suffered from the noise made by Gatwick.

Heathrow is also by far the biggest airport in England: according to the Civil Aviation Authority data, 72m people were served by Heathrow in 2013. The second busiest airport – Gatwick – served 35m passengers.

Top 5 busiest airports in England
Top 5 busiest airports in England

The maths is simple: Heathrow is twice as big as Gatwick but it produces noise that affects 80x more people (264,000 vs. 3,300).

In the recent debate about expanding one of those airports, noise pollution has been a major issue. We can see that Gatwick clearly wins this battle.

You can read about other aspects of both Heathrow and Gatwick expansion here.

You can find the full infographics, made with infogr.am, under this link.

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