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What if all the ice melted?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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A couple of weeks ago I shared a project by Andrew David Thaler called Drown Your Town that used Google Earth to show what cities around the world would look like under water. You could (and still can!) submit your favorite city and desired sea level rise and see how close to Waterworld you can get. And last week I shared a real life Drown Your Town in Austin, Texas after a massive rainstorm that flooded many parts of the city.

But what if all the ice on our planet melted? Coastal cities would be flooded. Millions upon millions of people would be displaced. We would expect inland seas and new passageways where there were none. And we would need new maps.

As these new maps from National Geographic show, our planet would look a little different:

The maps here show the world as it is now, with only one difference: All the ice on land has melted and drained into the sea, raising it 216 feet and creating new shorelines for our continents and inland seas.

There are more than five million cubic miles of ice on Earth, and some scientists say it would take more than 5,000 years to melt it all. If we continue adding carbon to the atmosphere, we’ll very likely create an ice-free planet, with an average temperature of perhaps 80 degrees Fahrenheit instead of the current 58.

Here is Asia with 216 feet (65 meters) of sea level rise:

Credit: National Geographic Society

In Asia alone, nearly three-quarters of a billion peple would be displaced by flooding. Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains would become islands.

Visit National Geographic’s website for more regions. Australia’s new inland sea is particularly striking.

 

David Wogan About the Author: An engineer and policy researcher who writes about energy, technology, and policy - and everything in between. Based in Austin, Texas. Comments? david.m.wogan@gmail.com Follow on Twitter @davidwogan.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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