Ice is frozen power just waiting to be unleashed (or should we say, “unmelted.”) What if a dramatic surge of climate change melted all the Earth’s ice overnight Would you wake up to find yourself drowning underwater? Would much of your country be submerged?
If it ever came to the point where all of Earth’s ice quickly melted away, the effects would be global devastation. Shorelines would be reforged as over two hundred feet of ice water would spread inland. In the United States, cities like Miami and New Orleans would be completely submersed.
Ever watched how an ice cube melts in a glass of water that’s filled to the brim? How does it change the water level? The truth is, it doesn’t. Above or below the water line, a melted ice cube replaces exactly the same volume of water.
Now let’s add salt to the mix. In the case of a 1-cubic-inch ice cube, the water level in the glass will rise by 0.03 cubic inches. That rise is displaced salt water. It’s an increase in volume of nearly 3%. Fairly small amount, isn’t it? But what if you apply this to glaciers and floating sea ice?
In South America, Paraguay and Buenos Aires would be blue on any new maps published. On the European front, London would become a memory and Amsterdam might have to rebrand itself as that place where scuba divers go to get legally high while underwater.
Currently, there are 5 million cubic miles of ice on Earth, and that ice is melting – science has already proven the fact. While the scenario presented here is hypothetical (apologies if we’ve alarmed the severe alarmists in the room), scientists are predicting in approximately 5,000 years Earth’s average temperature will have risen from its current 58 degrees Fahrenheit to a retiree-friendly level of 80. Pack your sunscreen, grandma – and your wetsuit.
5.8 million square miles of our planet is covered with ice. If all of it were to melt overnight, the global sea level would rise approximately 230 feet. That’s enough to cover London’s Tower Bridge. All seven continents would be partially underwater.
There would be no Miami and no London. The coast of Australia would be washed out, together with 80% of its residents. So would be Venice and the Netherlands.
Things wouldn’t be that bad for Africa. But with the extreme heat waves that followed, most of the continent would be uninhabitable.
Think floods would wash out the humanity entirely? Well, not all of it. But whoever is left would have plenty of dangers to deal with. All that melted ice would release carbon dioxide into the air. Ice needs high CO2 concentrations to melt in the first place. Given that oxygen content in the atmosphere would remain the same, you would slowly start to choke from breathing the air.
You’d have very little time to acclimatize to a new world. Ocean currents would change their direction, affecting sea life. With no time to evolve to such extreme changes, sea creatures and polar animals would face massive extinction. The ones still alive would have to leave their homes and find a better place to live.
This would result in a decrease of human food supply. A change in sea current would also mean dramatic weather changes. Heavy rains would hit the deserts, and areas with a significant rainfall would dry out. This would devastate agriculture, and cause a global famine. Wind patterns would change, too.
With no ice to reflect the sun’s rays, the sun would draw more moisture from the oceans, making more clouds in the sky. The clouds would gather first near the mountain areas, and eventually rainfall would flood them. Oceanic hurricanes would occur more often, causing even more floods.
Even the smallest earthquake off the coast could devastate nearby regions with a massive tsunami. All this would force a global migration that governments would not be able to deal with. The world as we know it would collapse.
Luckily, all the ice can’t melt overnight. But it is melting. Even the oldest ice core, that has been storing information about Earth’s climate for 1.5 million years. If we keep adding fuel to the fire that is climate change, in 5,000 years the Earth will become ice-free.
Every square inch of ice disappearing would also mean a very debilitating (and deadly) economic domino effect ensuing. Almost half of the globe’s human populations lives in coastal regions, and along with the loss of homes comes the destruction of industries, manufacturing and farmland. With no ice, the world would be a very, very wet mess. And the odds of cleaning up a spill like that would be impossible.
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- Facts about glaciers
- Arctic ice melt ‘already affecting weather patterns where you live right now’
- What would happen if all the ice on earth instantly melted?
- Oldest ice core: Finding a 1.5 million-year record of Earth’s climate
- Melting ice and its effect on water levels
- As the Arctic melts the world’s weather suffers