## What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

What if there was a forum for discussing these?

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brenok
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

And the flow would also get smaller as pressure decreases, right?

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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

I'm *so* using that last map as the world for my next DnD campaign.
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

brenok wrote:And the flow would also get smaller as pressure decreases, right?
Well the volume flow rate would, yes. But so sould the surface area of the oceans. If they were shaped just right, the depth change could in theory remain constant.
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mystmouse
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

If Earth is losing all the mass of the water, which is quite heavy, what impact will this have on Earth's relative spin, orbital velocity, impact of the less massive earth with the pull on the moon, etc... Somehow I think that the larger exposed land mass and climate changes are the least of humanity's problem with the water disappearing.

brenok
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

Considering that water is 0.023% of the Earth's total mass, I think days becoming a few microseconds shorter is trivial compared to, say, all forms of life disappearing by dehydratation.

HAL9000
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

I just want to point out that the Drained Earth map would make for a killer RPG setting. Maybe something post-apocalyptic, like Twilight 2000, Airship Pirates, After The Bomb, or as an alternate map for Dark Sun. I mean, just look at it:
Spoiler:

Turn it upside down, sideways, place a different point at the map center, or arrange it around one of the poles, and it might take your players weeks to figure it out if you don't tell them.
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

HAL9000 wrote:it might take your players weeks to figure it out if you don't tell them.
Only if you have exceptionally stupid players, I think. The Great Lakes and the continental outlines around the Atlantic remain quite distinctive in spite of the draining, because it doesn't take much change in sea level to simply cut the Atlantic off from any further changes.

It would work if you focused on the Pacific Rim, though, or if you drained water from all over instead of just the deepest point.
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Tyndmyr
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

African coastline is probably a big issue...the continent still looks very much like africa.

However, if you use tricks like inverting water and land in addition to orientation changes, an unusual center, etc...yeah, you could probably make it work.

PinkShinyRose
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

gmalivuk wrote:
HAL9000 wrote:it might take your players weeks to figure it out if you don't tell them.
Only if you have exceptionally stupid players, I think. The Great Lakes and the continental outlines around the Atlantic remain quite distinctive in spite of the draining, because it doesn't take much change in sea level to simply cut the Atlantic off from any further changes.

It would work if you focused on the Pacific Rim, though, or if you drained water from all over instead of just the deepest point.

Tyndmyr wrote:African coastline is probably a big issue...the continent still looks very much like africa.

However, if you use trickses like inverting water and land in addition to orientation changes, an unusual center, etc...yeah, you could probably make it work.

I think it's much more than that: the Arabic peninsula is still very recognisable, as is the entire Mediterranean (you can make out the Iberian peninsula, Italy, Greece to some extend and Anatolia (due to the Black sea mostly being normal). Moreover, despite northern Europe and South Asia being greatly disfigured and the new landmass in Indonesia the general outline of Afro-Australo-Eurasia is very recognisable (and so is South America, despite widening a little). Of the major landmasses only the Americas are difficult to recognise as a whole due to the large blob added to the South-West, and this mostly affects North-America. And apart from Antarctica, Arctic sea also kind of stands out.

The Pacific outline might work, depending on how much of the surrounding landmasses will remain. If the eastern edge of the Indian ocean or the western edge of the Atlantic remains, it won't work.

Though this did make me notice one thing: the western Pacific ocean didn't change that much, while the east Pacific is mostly drained. I did have a general idea that the western edge of the Pacific had several very deep parts, and is on the whole very deep, but didn't realise that it was that extreme (and that there was such a large difference, or that the deep part extended that far east) it almost seems that the entire Pacific generally slopes downward to the west.

EDIT: upon reviewing the depth maps through the link gmalivuk posted it seems that the east Pacific is more of a mountain plateau, instead of there being a slope Westwards.

keithl
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

Two things:

1) Real Big steel stoppers.

2) Submarines.

After we fight the Dutch for control of the Holes (which gets a lot easier when their navy gets beached in their now dry and landlocked seaports) we can build large steel stoppers that plug the holes and stop the flow, except what we let through to compensate for sea level rise due to climate change. To compensate for a 5 meter sea level rise, we can send through two million cubic kilometers of ocean.

When the water is flowing, we can send deep sea submersables to Mars. Gale Crater is -4400 meters below average Martian ground level, and if we let all the ocean's waters through, the Martian sea level would be about 14000 meters above that, But we don't need to let nearly that much water through the stoppers.

If the portal is high enough above the Martian surface for the water to keep flowing until most of the oceans drain, it must be at least 9 kilometers above average Martian ground level. So, once a submarine goes through, it better have some good way to slow down as it falls 13 kilometers down (at 3.7m/s2) to the Gale Sea.

BTW, the falling water will pick up about 50 joules per gram of gravitational energy on the way down, enough to heat it from the -2C at the bottom of the ocean to about 10C, minus some cooling due to the adiabatic expansion of the water as the pressure is released.

This will probably be a one-way trip, so the submarine/space travellers (bathynauts?) will perforce colonize Mars. The Martians can electrolyze some of the water to produce a 20KPa (0.2 atmosphere) oxygen atmosphere for Mars, requiring about 6 million metric tons of water per km2 of Mars surface (145 million km2), about 900,000 km3 of water. They will also want to release a lot of extra carbon from rocks to create enough methane and carbon dioxide for adequate greenhouse warming. But the Martians will also want shallow seas for additional climate stabilization, and the remaining 1.1 million cubic kilometers of water will be inadequate for that.

Will earthlings give them that extra water willingly? Or will the Martians scheme with the Dutch to nuke the stoppers and let more water through?
Last edited by keithl on Wed Jul 17, 2013 5:06 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

Richard Pau
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

Hmmmm, we would finally be Football World Champion.
I like this idea a lot.

Sheikh al-Majaneen
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

With regard to making shallow seas, would it help to evaporate a suitable amount of water, or would the energy required to do that plus keep the water vapor in the air heat the planet up too much?

ijuin
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

The pressure of Earth's atmosphere at sea level is approximately equal to the pressure of a 10m deep column of water at sea level gravity. This implies that enough evaporation to make Earth's atmosphere 50% water by mass would only reduce average sea level by about 15 meters. If you really wanted to lower sea level via evaporation, either you would need to find some place else to stow the water, or else you would need for the atmosphere to hold far more water than nitrogen or oxygen.

Jorpho
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

higgs-boson wrote:
groszdani wrote:1. Why does the first map say "ACTUAL SIZE"?
2. Why does this what-if page make Firefox and X.org very slow and use a lot of memory?
3. Is there any connection between the two things?

There are eleven images with a size of 5.926px × 3.726px bound to a relative width (100%) - maybe not all browsers / window manager handle this job with equal ease. In fact, at the time posting the thread's opener, for me the last image won't even load properly. Now all's fine.
I made a note to look into this, as the page made Firefox have conniptions under Windows after it was first posted. I had scarcely ever seen anything like it. It makes me rather curious; it seems like the sort of design flaw that could easily be exploited for nefarious purposes.

Whatever the problem was seems to be fixed now. I thought it might have something with some Javascript called "MathJax", the loading of which is indicated in the lower-left corner of the window when the page is opened, but it seems that is part of the What-If template, as it seems to load with every What-If page.

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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

How long before volcanic islands start to tip over or break apart and fall into the lowering sea? Would the cause be from erosion, or inherent instability of the underwater form of the island?

I would imagine La Palma would be first to go, although I'm sure some others might capsize sooner, but go unnoticed because they are uninhabited.

I would imagine that sulfur and other contaminants would start to build in the atmosphere as underwater volcanoes became exposed to the air, too.

Davidy
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

Most people (everyone?) VASTLY overestimate the amount of water on earth. In the graphic below, the large sphere above the west-central US represents all of earth's water; salt, fresh, underground, combined with minerals, etc. The smaller sphere over KY is all of the non-salt water. The tiny sphere over GA is all of earth's above ground fresh water; rivers, lakes (about 1/4 of it in the Great Lakes), marshes, clouds, etc.

Full story here: http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/earthhowmuch.html
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gmalivuk
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

While that may be true of most people, it really isn't the case in this thread. The tiny fraction of Earth's total mass that consists of ocean water has been posted in here a couple of different times already.
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

True, but as one of the folks who posted the percentages, I still appreciated the infographic. It's very compelling to see the difference visually illustrated that way.
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gmalivuk
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

Yeah, it's definitely a cool image.
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

Rombobjörn wrote:OK, now let's have a look at XKCD 681. Could someone please explain to me what would cause the water to flow from Earth to Mars? Venus or Jupiter look like much better places to put the portal.

Maybe a really big pump? A wormhole that equalizes the gravity potential?
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

Obviously, we need to put a REALLY big turbine over the hole. Just imagine the potential power output...

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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

Davidy wrote:Most people (everyone?) VASTLY overestimate the amount of water on earth. In the graphic below, the large sphere above the west-central US represents all of earth's water; salt, fresh, underground, combined with minerals, etc. The smaller sphere over KY is all of the non-salt water. The tiny sphere over GA is all of earth's above ground fresh water; rivers, lakes (about 1/4 of it in the Great Lakes), marshes, clouds, etc.

[img]

<troll> Wait, I thought the earth was 70% water. </troll>
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

So what would happen if we put the earth portal deeper: in the mantle, so the molten magma could drain onto Mars? (and maybe the water would follow?)

T-Prime3797
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

I feel I should point out that the area called the Grand Banks referenced in this what-if is off the coast of Newfoundland, not Nova Scotia as stated in the narrative.

Flumble
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

I'm not really into geology, but I presume we can safely agree that shit gets fucked badly.

Depending on how deep beneath the crust you'd place the portal, the magma sphere will just decrease in radius, meaning there's too much crust to cover the surface of the magma, resulting in more/bigger mountains along the tectonic ridges (and maybe some in the middle of a plate) as the tectonic plates get squeezed together and a lot more volcanic activity.

A wild guess on Mars' situation tells me the magma lava would be hot enought to just flow out of the portal as (slow? It's thick though heavily pressurised) water. It probably makes for comfortable nights on Mars. As far as I know there's little inflammable material save for a little oxygen and a tiny bit of methane, so you won't get to see a nice fire. (the surface itself is covered mostly in volcanic rocks already, so no luck there either)

Taking into account that the lava will probably set (like the water) while flowing outwards, you could get a nice pseudo super volcano. (I'd advise to place the Mars portal over the Hellas Basin to patch up that hole)

ijuin
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

Beware that after you drain about a billion cubic kilometers of the mantle from Earth, you're going to have massive sinkholes and fragmenting of the tectonic plates as they have no support under them and start to crumble. Worst case, chunks of continent will be free-falling dozens of kilometers, and most large-scale infrastructure such as highways, railroads, power and water grids, and pipelines are going to be wrecked, not to mention how much volcanic ash is likely to enter the atmosphere . . .

PinkShinyRose
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

So devastation on Earth? Wouldn't the plates flip, with overhang on one side of a plate, and the other side being dipped into the mantle and melting? Would the gravity issue be solved on Mars? If the oceans would follow after the magma, would the water stay on Mars?

Flumble
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

PinkShinyRose wrote:So devastation on Earth? Wouldn't the plates flip, with overhang on one side of a plate, and the other side being dipped into the mantle and melting? Would the gravity issue be solved on Mars? If the oceans would follow after the magma, would the water stay on Mars?

Did you mean "flip" as in the dutch "flippen"? As far as I know flipping implies turning over by 180°, not a mere 3° (or whatever is needed to shove a tectonic plate beneath the other). But certainly the plates would totally lose their grip.

I think the crust isn't thick enough to let tens of metres of magma leak away before falling down (and causing one hell of an earthquake, volcanic eruptions and other havoc), but rather it'll slowly descend, which causes a slow buildup of compression force within and between tectonic plates. This in turn should cause a more rapid desintegration of crust at places where a tectonic plate is shoved beneath another and more earthquakes and formation of mountains at places where tectonic plates collide.

The portal AFAIK simply isn't big enough for a massive apocalyptic scenario. Alas, we dutchmen don't get to conquer the world, so it's a shitty scenario anyway.

Oh wait, I'm forgetting something: the Earth's surface would decrease dramatically after hundreds of kilometres of magma disappear, resulting in an interesting landscape. However, as draining the oceans takes hundreds of thousands of years, which is a lousy 4 kilometres of ocean, shaving off hundreds of kilometres of magma takes quite some more time I presume.
I'll leave it to someone else to tell a nice story of the possibilities of Small, Watery Earth and Big Mars. (It takes too much time to reach those situations in my opinion.)

Also, I can't help but fear the magma portal won't suck up crust and therefore won't drain the oceans in a later stage.

 compulsory disclaimer. (not really compulsory but wanted to share the link)

Tyndmyr
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

What would be the gravitational effects of transferring that much material to mars over a short period of time, geologically speaking?

I do agree that the portal, if at crust level, is likely to stop/slow sucking stuff up, simply because caves, etc can exist. We're just not going to have the nice, steady flow from water that we would in the ocean. Sure, there'll be water leaching into the portal, etc, but likely at a much slower rate, depending on local geology.

Rasmusw
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

Partly related to this:
Roughly six million years ago, the Mediterranean dried up more or less completely. Extrapolating from the climatic impact of this might tell something about how draining the oceans might effect the climate.
(apparently I can't post links here, but the event is called The Messinian Salinity Crisis. Search engines know about it)

By the way, did I mention that I find this event absolutely mindboggling?

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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

Rasmusw wrote:The Messinian Salinity Crisis ... absolutely mindboggling

If it's not what brought you here in the first place, you'll probably find this a pretty fascinating read.
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Flumble
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

Rasmusw wrote:might effect the climate.

I fear you didn't do that on purpose.

DocMesa
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

http://uk.news.yahoo.com/satellites-gli ... ml#MKWHPXb

Randall actually went ahead and did this?

Klear
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

DocMesa wrote:http://uk.news.yahoo.com/satellites-glimpse-ultra-powerful-%E2%80%9Cblack-hole%E2%80%9D-whirlpools-in-atlantic-151036336.html#MKWHPXb

Randall actually went ahead and did this?

We really should have seen it coming:

Alt-text.

Edit: Also, this is not the first time someone acted upon suggestion from What If:
http://what-if.xkcd.com/40/

patzer
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

I just found this
http://www.worlddreambank.org/S/SIP.HTM

which is a detailed account of what an earth with mostly drained oceans would be like. Worth a read.
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PayasYouDraw
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

This was one of my favourite Whifs, but Randall didn't answer my question. It was what if the portal at the end of Portal 2 was never closed.

Spoiler:
So basically you have the Earth's atmosphere emptying out of the Lunar surface. What happens to that air? Is the Moon's gravity enough to keep it there against the force of Earth's atmospheric pressure? Will it eventually find its way back to Earth?
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Jorpho
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

PayasYouDraw wrote:
Spoiler:
So basically you have the Earth's atmosphere emptying out of the Lunar surface. What happens to that air? Is the Moon's gravity enough to keep it there against the force of Earth's atmospheric pressure? Will it eventually find its way back to Earth?

Not sure why you're spoilering. Should I spoil too?

Spoiler:
I think it would all strongly depend on details like the relative size of the portal and its distance to the Earth's surface.

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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

Ok, but what happens if the portal sucks all of Earth onto Mars? Meaning, we combine the two planets' mass in a slower method than just colliding them; a true terraforming, where we don't make Mars Earth-like, but instead bring all of Earth to Mars. Obviously all life will more or less cease to exist for a while, so we'll need a lifeboat ship or two to hold all the people, plants and animals we'd need to reseed the new, larger planet. But, could we live on the new planet, assuming we survived the merging? How long would it take for things to settle down and become more or less stable (meaning the cores merge and the crust become crust-y again)?

PayasYouDraw
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

Jorpho wrote:
PayasYouDraw wrote:
Spoiler:
So basically you have the Earth's atmosphere emptying out of the Lunar surface. What happens to that air? Is the Moon's gravity enough to keep it there against the force of Earth's atmospheric pressure? Will it eventually find its way back to Earth?

Not sure why you're spoilering. Should I spoil too?

Spoiler:
I think it would all strongly depend on details like the relative size of the portal and its distance to the Earth's surface.

I spoilered just in case anyone hadn't played the game and didn't want the ending ruined.

We know the portal is roughly an ellipse of 2x1 m. It was located on the floor of GlaDos' room and I'm sure someone with nerdy enough credentials knows how far underground that was. In fact that would be another interesting variable, because the atmosphere would be emptying into an undergound chamber and then off the Lunar surface.
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Klear
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### Re: What-If 0053: "Drain the Oceans"

PayasYouDraw wrote:It was located on the floor of GlaDos' room and I'm sure someone with nerdy enough credentials knows how far underground that was.

Not so much, since the metal sheet ceiling gets damaged and there is a view of the night sky rather than tons of rock.