UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
Home
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Webcasts
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information
Hi! Thanks for the information. I was wondering, what would Antarctica really look like if all its ice melted? What would the world look like if all of the ice at Antarctica melted?
Answer 1:

This has happened in the past - in fact, for most of the Earth's history there have been no major ice sheets over the South Pole. We live in an unusually cold period.

The answer to your question is complex. First, much of Antarctica is currently below sea-level, if you removed the ice. If all of that ice melted, the world-wide sea-level would go up about sixty meters (Greenland is another twenty meters). So at first much of Antarctica would go under water.

However, the reason why so much of Antarctica is below sea-level is because of the weight of all that ice. The continental land mass is itself floating in the Earth's mantle, and, from Archimedes' Law, a floating body displaces its weight. If the ice were removed, the ground would rebound, and eventually the continent would pop up above the surface again. This process would take a long time, because the mantle is extremely viscous, and so it would happen in a long, series of earthquakes.

A similar situation, actually, exists in the north-central and northeastern United States and most of Canada today: twenty thousand years ago, all of that land was under more than a kilometer of ice. That ice pressed the land down into the mantle by its weight, and with the ice gone, it's coming back up again. We're still measuring the earthquakes as it happens.


Answer 2:

Antarctica is a big continent--bigger than Australia, with lots of different kinds of terrain.Some areas are flat. Some areas are very mountainous, like southern Argentina. There's even an active volcano, Mount Erebus. If the land stays cold, though, there won't be much vegetation. So it will probably look like much of Alaska or northern Canada: some moss, some permafrost. If all the ice melted, ocean levels would rise about 200 feet, drowning many coastal cities around the world.


Answer 3:

If you looked at Antarctica without the ice, it would look quite a bit like a normal rocky land mass. Since it was previously covered by ice, there would be little vegetation on the ground - it would probably look pretty barren.

This land mass is almost the same size as the ice that covers Antarctica. This is important, because most of that ice is NOT floating in the water, like in some other icy regions. If the Antarctic ice would melt, scientists predict that the sea levels around the world would rise about 200 feet. Although that may not sound like a lot, there are many coastal areas in the world that would undergo great changes if there were to happen - most notably disappearing underwater.

In addition, all that extra water could affect global ocean temperatures, which could greatly affect the weather of Earth, most likely in a catastrophic way.

There's no need to get too alarmed yet - Antarctica as a whole is still very cold, and is in no danger of completely melting at this moment. But it's important to remember what could happen, so that we do our best to keep the Earth a happy place to live.



Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2015 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use