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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).


east coast: -118 metersU.S. East Coast
20,000 years ago (400 feet/170m below today)
east coast: 5 metersU.S. East Coast
if West sheet melted (17-foot/5m rise)
east coast: 50 metersU.S. East Coast
if East sheet melted (170-foot/50m rise)


florida: -118 metersFlorida
20,000 years ago (400 feet/170m below today)
florida: 5 metersFlorida
if West sheet melted (17-foot/5m rise)
florida: 50 metersFlorida
if East sheet melted (170-foot/50m rise)


northern europe: -118 metersNorthern Europe
20,000 years ago (400 feet/170m below today)
northern europe: 5 metersNorthern Europe
if West sheet melted (17-foot/5m rise)
northern europe: 50 metersNorthern Europe
if East sheet melted (170-foot/50m rise)


Southeast Asia: -118 metersSoutheast Asia
20,000 years ago (400 feet/170m below today)
Southeast Asia: 5 metersSoutheast Asia
if West sheet melted (17-foot/5m rise)
Southeast Asia: 50 metersSoutheast Asia
if East sheet melted (170-foot/50m rise)



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

Images: William Haxby

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