Saturday, 3 May 2014

Drowned World

Years ago there was a Sci-Fi book called 'The Drowned World' by JG Ballard (recently re-issued I understand), which I read .... written in 1962, it details the world after a catastrophic burst of solar radiation has caused the polar ice-caps to melt and worldwide temperature to soar, leaving the cities of northern Europe and America submerged in beautiful and haunting tropical lagoons.

Now obviously, way back in 1962 the idea that we ourselves might cause the same outcome via global warming was so preposterous that a Sci-Fi writer chose 'Solar radiation' as the cause of the disaster, but nonetheless it was a prophetic tale, in which the 'hero' enjoys the outcome of this catastrophe.

Sadly, if such an event were to come to pass then, the outcome may not be as clean cut as the novel, and certainly for the seas to reach their full rise extent would take up to 5,000 years, as there are more than five million cubic miles of ice. However if we continue adding carbon to the atmosphere, by burning up all the Earth's supply of coal, oil, and gas, and thus adding some five trillion more tons of carbon to the atmosphere, we'll very likely eventually create an ice-free planet for the first time in more than 30 million years, with an average temperature of around 80 degrees Fahrenheit instead of the current 58F ...

But at first, the risen seas are likely to be colder than the 'instant tropical conditions' envisaged in the novel, even if the ice somehow all melted in a decade or so .... but otherwise the effects of such a meltdown were well described in the story, except maybe the fact that large parts of what land is left might become too hot for humans.

Recently a magazine decided to use the latest technology to show what would happen if a full polar ice meltdown occurred .... its fairly dramatic, with the sea level rising 216 feet and creating entirely new shorelines for our continents and new vast inland seas.

 North America In A Drowned World

In North America - the entire current Atlantic seaboard would vanish, along with Florida and the Gulf Coast. In California, San Francisco's hills would become a cluster of islands and the Central Valley a giant bay and San Diego would be gone. But not too dramatic.

South America In A Drowned World

In South America - both the Amazon Basin in the north, and the Paraguay River Basin in the south, there would be Atlantic inlets, wiping out Buenos Aires, coastal Uruguay, and most of Paraguay.

Europe In A Drowned World

In Europe - Half of England and all the Netherlands will have been surrendered to the sea, and most of Denmark will be gone too. Meanwhile, in the Mediterranean, expanding waters will also have swelled the Black and Caspian Seas.

Africa In A Drowned World

Africa - North Africa, well Egypt mainly, finds Alexandria and Cairo swamped by the intruding Mediterranean, but the Earth's rising heat might make much of it an uninhabitable desert.

Asia In A Drowned World

In Asia - A vast swathe of Chinas best land would be flooded, as would all of Bangladesh, and much of coastal India. The inundation of the Mekong Delta would leave Cambodia's Cardamom Mountains stranded as an island.

Australasia In A Drowned World

In Australasia - A big chunk of what is largely desert would gain a new inland sea and also much of the current narrow habitable coastal strip would be lost. However the new sea will provide a new coastal strip to compensate and may even produce new rainfall patterns inland.

Antarctica In A Drowned World

In Antarctica - The continent becomes a series of large islands.

So there you are, the world in 5,000 years, if we don't stop global warming ..... a very different one from the one we see now.


  1. The argument about man-made global warming is moot, in my opinion, because the evidence shows that the planet is getting warmer and man-made or not we have to deal with it. We should be hoping that the effect is man-made because that would give us a little control over it.

    1. Largely too late in my opinion ... the tipping point was the early 1970's, after the post war industrialisation boom in the 50's and 60's .... we may be able control the upper level of the rise, but I doubt we have the will to do so.


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