What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

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What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby thunk » Tue Oct 18, 2016 6:02 pm UTC

Since Death Valley is below sea level could we dig a hole to the ocean and fill it up with water?

—Nick Traeden


Yes! We can do anything we want. We shouldn't do this, though, because it would be gross.

Note to Randall: A temperature of 54.0 C was recorded at the location on 2013-06-30. This temperature was also matched in Mitribah, Kuwait on 2016-07-21.
Last edited by thunk on Wed Oct 19, 2016 4:34 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby Soupspoon » Tue Oct 18, 2016 6:50 pm UTC

I see Randall is a fan of "Look Around You"... ;)

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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby lunarul » Wed Oct 19, 2016 11:35 pm UTC

I'm disappointed in Randall suggesting that a cat walking on a keyboard could type ZZYZX
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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby Carlington » Thu Oct 20, 2016 12:04 am UTC

I wouldn't have seen this new What If if it weren't for thunk posting this thread!

Thanks, thunk. Thunk.
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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby CharlieP » Thu Oct 20, 2016 3:18 pm UTC

I think thunk thanks are definitely in order.
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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby Pied typer » Thu Oct 20, 2016 3:53 pm UTC

I honestly don't care whether they have the world record or not. Death Valley is still pretty hot, yo.

If the edges of the channel were replaced with something that cleaned itself regularly, then in theory one would be able to avoid it being salty and disgusting.
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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby Whizbang » Thu Oct 20, 2016 3:59 pm UTC

Sure. If it was cleaned it would be cleaner.

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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby another josh » Thu Oct 20, 2016 4:11 pm UTC

The question is, when the oceans are drained from the bottom of the Marianas trench, how big of a sea would be left in the current Death Valley? I understand it would depend on the depth of the channel and how clear the channel is, but I assume reasonable assumptions could be made.

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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby thunk » Thu Oct 20, 2016 6:31 pm UTC

Estimates using the Oilslick hypsometric map indicate the basin col for Death Valley is at about 594 m in altitude, just east of Ludlow, CA. (34.705 N -116.055 W). Eyeballing that elevation line on the map, the Death Valley Sea, immediately after formation, would cover not only Death Valley, but also the desert area near Baker, a bay extending along the Mojave River west to Yermo, another bay around the Amargosa River near Tecopa, and at its northern end not quite reaching the Ubehebe crater. But all in all, it wouldn't be that big of a lake.
The basin col for the Panamint Valley is 604 m, so it would remain dry, but only barely.

Of course, if you dug the channel deeper, it would be smaller, quite possibly similar to the extent of Lake Manly 22,000 years ago:
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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby keithl » Fri Oct 21, 2016 6:02 am UTC

Oh, come now. You call that a What-If?

The question was "... could we dig a hole to the ocean ...". Not a ditch, canal ...

I guess TGLR was so distracted by temperature records that he neglected to answer the actual question. About a hole. Even a tunnel barely qualifies as a hole, and certainly does not have the stature of a What-If hole.

No, a hole must be straight down, from the lowest point in the Badwater Basin, to the Indian Ocean, 63.2 degrees east, 36.3 degrees south, between Maritius and "French Southern and Antarctic Islands".

And no, we can't dig that hole, but this is a What-If hole; we can dig it with What-If tools, like relativistic baseballs or gynormous lasers.

We can line the hole with unobtanium, which will be featured in a What-if, sooner or later, may TGLR (blessed be his name) live to write What-If #1000. Otherwise, Death Valley floods with magma, which doesn't contain enough water.

So - water falls in the hole from the Indian Ocean, goes through the Earth, and squirts up into Death Valley. Except it doesn't, because we neglected to specify zero thermal conductivity unobtanium. Water falls into the hole and turns into extremely hot steam, which comes shooting up like a giant geyser.

Except it doesn't, because air falls in the Death Valley entrance to the hole, and gets superhot and and dense from the depth. H2O has a molecular weight of 18, N2 has a molecular weight of 28, water vapor/plasma is less dense and won't make it through the air plug near the center, whatever form that takes at those outrageous temperatures and pressures. At least the hydrogen atoms won't.

What will come out of the Death Valley end of the hole is a lot of very very hot air. A lot of steam comes out the Indian Ocean end.

Which will definitely establish a new temperature record for Death Valley, if anyone can get close enough with a thermometer to measure it. "Death" would refer to the scores of fame-seeking meteorologists dying in the attempt.

But it won't be the new world record temperature. Steam has higher specific heat than air, and is lighter, so whatever happens down there, the steam will come out of the Indian Ocean end hotter and faster than the air in Death Valley. So - the hottest place on Earth will be a mid-ocean geyser, half a world away.

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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Oct 21, 2016 4:39 pm UTC

Wouldn't zero thermal conductivity mean the unobtanium transfers no heat?
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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby lorb » Fri Oct 21, 2016 5:07 pm UTC

keithl wrote:I guess TGLR was so distracted by temperature records that he neglected to answer the actual question.


Agree with that. This what-if feels very weak, in that it talks very little about the actual question. So many paragraphs about temperature records and just two sentences about central parts of the question:
Nick's Death Valley project would start off connected to the ocean, but without a source of flowing water at the Death Valley end,[10] the channel would gradually silt up. The link to the ocean would eventually be broken, the sea would start to evaporate, the water would become saline, algae would bloom, and eventually the US Geological Survey would start complaining about the smell.
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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Oct 21, 2016 5:54 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Wouldn't zero thermal conductivity mean the unobtanium transfers no heat?

I think that was his point: we didn't specify that, so we get lots of heat transfer that foils our attempt. We would have to specify that in order for the attempt to work.
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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Oct 21, 2016 8:25 pm UTC

Ah, right.

Still, I don't think steam would bubble out of the surface of the ocean, for the same reason it already doesn't above thermal vents.

(The pressure is too high for it to be gaseous, plus the water around it would carry away heat pretty effectively.)

Edit: This map suggests that the water at the point in question is about twice as deep as it needs to be to surpass the 22MPa critical point of water, meaning the best you can get if you add heat is a supercritical fluid rather than any proper steam.
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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby Yet-One-More-Idiot » Sat Oct 22, 2016 5:24 pm UTC

I was wondering how you could dig a HOLE from Death Valley to the ocean as well....a channel, canal, trough, etc would be much better to dig for this one.

But because I studied topology at uni, I was also accidentally misunderstanding the usage of "hole" anyway, since of course the standard everyday definition of "hole" is basically "a chunk of something dug out of the surrounding matter". Which in topology, is the definition of a "dent", not a "hole". xD

The other thing I thought about after the whole hole business, was that the Death Valley Sea, once formed, would begin to stagnate and become noxious etc because it has no inflow. Right?

...what if you dug a channel out of the other side of Death Valley, cutting clear across the USA and coming out in the Gulf of Mexico somewhere, so the water could flow right through from ocean to ocean? Would stop the whole thing from stagnating and becoming inhospitable to life, wouldn't it? :)

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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby keithl » Sat Oct 22, 2016 10:00 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Ah, right. Still, I don't think steam would bubble out of the surface of the ocean, for the same reason it already doesn't above thermal vents. (The pressure is too high for it to be gaseous, plus the water around it would carry away heat pretty effectively.)

gmalivuk would be correct for a small hole, and mere ocean depths, but this hole must be huge and very deep (and I presume, very hot).

Ignoring the materials behavior for the moment. To fill Death Valley and make up for evaporation requires a vast amount of water flow, and the pipe is 13,000 kilometers long. Assume "fill" means 2 meters below sea level (end-to-end hydrostatic pressure difference) and the water flow must make up for 3 meters per year of evaporation over 500,000 hectares. The pipe must move 1.5e10 cubic meters of sea water per year, about 500 cubic meters per second, with a pressure difference of 2000 Pascals.

How big does the pipe need to be? Start with zero viscosity and zero friction, and assume no heat flow into the pipe. The water drops 2 meters, establishing a velocity of 6.3 meters per second, so the pipe cannot be less than 80 square meters in area.

Now, assume laminar flow and zero velocity at the walls. Assume an isothermal, incompressable, Newtonian fluid, with the viscosity of liquid water at STP, μ = 1e-3 Pa-s (all terribly optimistic assumptions). Assume half the pressure difference establishes the dynamic flow, and half fights viscosity. Use the Hagen-Poiseuille equation, volume flow rate Q = π R⁴ Δp /8 μ L, or R⁴ = 8 μ L Q / π Δp . Given L = 1.3e7 m, Δp = 1000 Pa, μ = 1e-3, and Q = 500 m³/s, then R must be at least 11 meters, a pipe area of 400 square meters. Ideally, the water moves at 1.2 m/s, traversing the pipe in four months.

BTW, the hydrostatic pressure at the center of the Earth for this magic incompressable water is 0.5 ρ g₀ Re or 30 gigaPascals, 50 million times the triple-point pressure, up in dotted line territory way the hell beyond any graphs or measurements I know about. Add heat flow from the Earth's core ( about 6000K, pressure around 300 GPa ) and things will get frisky. I don't know what the hell you call it, but solid, liquid, or vapor water It Ain't.

If we wanted to deliver something approximating water to the other side, the bore would have to be much bigger to accomodate the dynamics and minimize surface to volume ratios on the way through the Earth's core. My W.A.G. is that a 100 km³ bolus of water will fall down the hole, vaporize to incandescence, and come blowing back out the hole perhaps once per day.

In any case, we are talking volcano-scale bore sizes, and much higher temperatures and bigger heat fluxes than a typical volcano, dwarfing a mere undersea vent. Can a supervolcanic explosion smash through 5 kilometers of seawater and send a vast jet of superheated steam skyward? Perhaps someone else can take over from here, and give this a properly devastating What-If conclusion.

Added note: If Ken Jennings was on a boat above the pipe when a steam explosion occured, would he become the hottest game show contestant of all time? Or did they have game shows in Nagasaki in 1945?

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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby GuesssWho » Sat Oct 22, 2016 10:52 pm UTC

. . . 'enthusiasts' is misspelled in the hover text about the keyboard-cat-named town.

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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby gmalivuk » Sun Oct 23, 2016 2:47 am UTC

keithl wrote:30 gigaPascals, 50 million times the triple-point pressure, up in dotted line territory way the hell beyond any graphs or measurements I know about.
The graph on the site I linked goes up to 10 TPa, albeit the top bits (above 400 GPa) are theoretical.
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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby taemyr » Tue Oct 25, 2016 2:45 pm UTC

keithl wrote:No, a hole must be straight down,


Why?

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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby azule » Tue Oct 25, 2016 3:27 pm UTC

taemyr wrote:
keithl wrote:No, a hole must be straight down,


Why?

What if Randall only answered questions with pedantic accuracy?
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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Oct 26, 2016 1:32 pm UTC

But it's not accurate, is the point.
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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby jgh » Wed Oct 26, 2016 6:35 pm UTC

Flood The Dead Sea! is more practical as it connects to seas at both ends:

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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby thunk » Wed Oct 26, 2016 7:55 pm UTC

Christopher Burt explains once again why the official world-record reading of 56.7 C in Death Valley probably wasn't valid.

Basically, 1) you can't have a super-adiabatic lapse rate over a deep layer, as the atmosphere is well-mixed on hot summer days, 2)as a result, maximum surface temperatures are limited by maximum 500 and 600-mb temperatures, which are usually the same over a wide area, and 3) since the highs at surrounding stations were much cooler (even accounting for the change in elevation), they do not indicate that super-high mid-level temperatures were at all present on that day.

This also means that 54 C is probably the world's upper limit on surface air temperature--maybe it could be pushed a degree higher if you find the right desert to put a station in.
Oh, and we still need to convene a WMO expert panel about the tying Kuwait observation.
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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby somitomi » Sat Oct 29, 2016 2:49 pm UTC

keithl wrote:I guess TGLR was so distracted by temperature records that he neglected to answer the actual question. About a hole. Even a tunnel barely qualifies as a hole, and certainly does not have the stature of a What-If hole.

TGLR?

What's with all the acronyms? Everytime I think there can't be an acronym I haven't seen yet, two more pop up from somewhere.
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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby Soupspoon » Sat Oct 29, 2016 5:51 pm UTC

I interpreted it (knowing that I wouldn't be quite right) as The Great Lord Randall, from context. But it's probably an ETLA that has been used in/inspired by the full text in Time or the 'secret' subforus, that I've not read.

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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby Copper Bezel » Sun Oct 30, 2016 2:11 am UTC

That's been my take. If there's an official reading that involves chirpish molping, I'm going to ignore it and continue to read The [Great/Good] Lord Randall.
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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby somitomi » Mon Oct 31, 2016 3:42 pm UTC

Soupspoon wrote:I interpreted it (knowing that I wouldn't be quite right) as The Great Lord Randall, from context. But it's probably an ETLA that has been used in/inspired by the full text in Time or the 'secret' subforus, that I've not read.

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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby Mikeski » Mon Oct 31, 2016 6:48 pm UTC

somitomi wrote:
Soupspoon wrote:I interpreted it (knowing that I wouldn't be quite right) as The Great Lord Randall, from context. But it's probably an ETLA that has been used in/inspired by the full text in Time or the 'secret' subforus, that I've not read.

You're doing this on purpose, aren't you?

Possibly, but that one's pretty standard: Extended Three Letter Acronym.

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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby somitomi » Mon Oct 31, 2016 7:20 pm UTC

Mikeski wrote:
somitomi wrote:
Soupspoon wrote:I interpreted it (knowing that I wouldn't be quite right) as The Great Lord Randall, from context. But it's probably an ETLA that has been used in/inspired by the full text in Time or the 'secret' subforus, that I've not read.

You're doing this on purpose, aren't you?

Possibly, but that one's pretty standard: Extended Three Letter Acronym.

But why ETLA and not FLA? Or could I say "extended three" instead of "four"?
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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby Soupspoon » Mon Oct 31, 2016 7:52 pm UTC

If I didn't say ETLA, then how would I ever explain VETLA? ;)

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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby Mikeski » Tue Nov 01, 2016 1:55 am UTC

somitomi wrote:But why ETLA and not FLA?

For geeky historical reasons.

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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby Neil_Boekend » Tue Nov 01, 2016 8:53 am UTC

somitomi wrote:
keithl wrote:I guess TGLR was so distracted by temperature records that he neglected to answer the actual question. About a hole. Even a tunnel barely qualifies as a hole, and certainly does not have the stature of a What-If hole.

TGLR?

What's with all the acronyms? Everytime I think there can't be an acronym I haven't seen yet, two more pop up from somewhere.

As others have noted that is The Great Lord Randall. The Time topic is weird. This is the god in one of the religions. Since Randall created time and time created the community he is our god. I think, but I'm far to lazy to check the thousands of pages to verify that (or even the wiki).
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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby somitomi » Tue Nov 01, 2016 11:02 am UTC

Soupspoon wrote:If I didn't say ETLA, then how would I ever explain VETLA? ;)

I am certain this is obvious, but I can't figure out, what the V stands for.
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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby Soupspoon » Tue Nov 01, 2016 12:31 pm UTC

somitomi wrote:
Soupspoon wrote:If I didn't say ETLA, then how would I ever explain VETLA? ;)

I am certain this is obvious, but I can't figure out, what the V stands for.

it is very obvious indeed oh dear i seem to be restricted to just lowercase and spaces

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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby Fieari » Tue Nov 01, 2016 11:37 pm UTC

Hmm. My community always called them TLAs, ETLAs, and EETLAs (the last one being "Extended Expanded").
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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby keithl » Tue Nov 01, 2016 11:40 pm UTC

somitomi wrote:
Mikeski wrote:
somitomi wrote:
Soupspoon wrote:I interpreted it (knowing that I wouldn't be quite right) as The Great Lord Randall, from context. But it's probably an ETLA that has been used in/inspired by the full text in Time or the 'secret' subforus, that I've not read.

You're doing this on purpose, aren't you?

Possibly, but that one's pretty standard: Extended Three Letter Acronym.

But why ETLA and not FLA? Or could I say "extended three" instead of "four"?

AUFL. U stands for "Using", and the acronym is self-descriptive.

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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Nov 02, 2016 2:30 am UTC

Naw. Taking the existing acronym as if it were an existing class with a history, then appending "extended" to it in direct contradiction of the defining quality of the expansion as written, sounds exactly right in computing contexts. There are doubtless real TLAs with an S for Simple or a U for Universal that have been appended with an E or X for Extended, Expanded, etc.
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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby Pied typer » Wed Nov 02, 2016 2:53 pm UTC

It would probably be significantly easier (and less disgusting) if instead of digging a trench from the ocean, we created artificial riverbanks to direct runoff from the nearby mountains into the valley. It would take longer (especially because California is currently in a drought last I checked), but it would be altogether a better option.
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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby somitomi » Wed Nov 02, 2016 7:29 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:Naw. Taking the existing acronym as if it were an existing class with a history, then appending "extended" to it in direct contradiction of the defining quality of the expansion as written, sounds exactly right in computing contexts. There are doubtless real TLAs with an S for Simple or a U for Universal that have been appended with an E or X for Extended, Expanded, etc.

I figured it would be a piss take of something.
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Re: What-If 0152: "Flood Death Valley"

Postby geospacedman » Thu Nov 03, 2016 11:08 am UTC

There was such an idea to create a sea in North Africa: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sahara_Sea


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