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If Polar Ice Vanished

  • By Peter Tyson
  • Posted 04.21.98
  • NOVA

What would happen if all of Greenland’s ice or all of Antarctica’s ice melted? Nobody expects this anytime soon, but as a kind of visual thought experiment, the late Bill Haxby of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University graphically depicted how the coastlines of four regions—the mid-Atlantic U.S., the state of Florida, northern Europe, and Southeast Asia—might change if the planet's seas rose 17 feet or 170 feet. (These are conservative estimates for how much seas would rise with the melting of all of Greenland’s or Antarctica’s ice, respectively.) For comparison, Haxby also showed how the same coastlines would have looked 20,000 years ago at the height of the Ice Age, when sea levels were some 400 feet lower than they are today.

Launch Interactive

See what would happen to the world's coastlines if Greenland's or Antarctica's ice melted completely away.

This feature originally appeared, in slightly different form, on the site for the NOVA program Warnings From the Ice.

Credits

Images

(coastline maps)
Courtesy Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, credited to William F. Haxby

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