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Water World

What would happen to the world's coastlines if the West Antarctic Ice Sheet melted, raising global sea levels by as much as 20 feet? Some scientists say a collapse is inevitable, possibly even imminent. Click on the images below to get a look at selected coasts in the aftermath of such a melting. (Black lines represent current coastlines.)

While you're at it, check out the same stretch of coast 20,000 years ago. It was the height of the Ice Age, when sea levels were 400 feet lower than today, and there was a lot more land to go around.

Finally, if you dare, have a look at what would be lost if the East Antarctic Ice Sheet were to melt. No one believes this monstrous dome will disintegrate anytime soon. But if it did, it would raise seas around the world by as much as 200 feet. (To play it safe, these images depict a conservative rise of 170 feet.)

Click on any picture to see a larger image (60-130K in size).

Computer-generated image of U.S. East Coast U.S. East Coast 20,000 years ago (400 feet below today)


Computer-generated image of U.S. East Coast U.S. East Coast if West sheet melted (17-foot rise)


Computer-generated image of U.S. East Coast U.S. East Coast if East sheet melted (170-foot rise)

Computer-generated image of Florida Florida 20,000 years ago (400 feet below today)


Computer-generated image of Florida Florida if West sheet melted (17-foot rise)


Computer-generated image of Florida Florida if East sheet melted (170-foot rise)

Computer-generated image of Northern Europe Northern Europe 20,000 years ago (400 feet below today)


Computer-generated image of Northern Europe Northern Europe if West sheet melted (17-foot rise)


Computer-generated image of Northern Europe Northern Europe if East sheet melted (170-foot rise)

Computer-generated image of Southeast Asia Southeast Asia 20,000 years ago (400 feet below today)


Computer-generated image of Southeast Asia Southeast Asia if West sheet melted (17-foot rise)


Computer-generated image of Southeast Asia Southeast Asia if East sheet melted (170-foot rise)



Special thanks to: William Haxby
Adjunct Research Scientist
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory


Images: William Haxby

Stories in the Ice | Antarctic Almanac | Water World | Live and Breathe Antarctica
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