Thinking about the end of the world is – scientifically speaking – quite good fun. Setting off all the world’s nukes would be pretty bad for humanity, but if you really want to bring about the apocalypse, setting off every single volcano in the world would actually be a more wholesale form of supervillain-esque destruction.
Thing is, there’s more ways to bring doom to the planet than people realize. So, as it’s International Water Day this week (March 22), we thought we’d bring about the end of the world by removing all of its water.
As you might expect, people would die very quickly without it, but what would happen to the rest of the planet? Would there be anything left except for a dusty shell, or would life, as they say, find a way? Let’s take a look.
The Pale Brown Dot
It’s 2017, and a gigantic fleet of alien explorers has just appeared somewhere between Earth and the Moon. They’ve been a bit silly, you see – by burning too many carbon-rich fossil fuels and pumping out far too much greenhouse gases, they’ve caused their planet’s climate to warm so much that all the water on it has evaporated.
So, they’ve turned up with a big space vacuum cleaner to steal all of ours. For the sake of simplicity, we can say that it has the power to remove water from everything except living things.
With world leaders unable to do anything about it, and the US – with all its military might – responding by Tweeting insults at the alien fleet in all caps, we’re hopeless to defeat the extraterrestrial aggressors.
The first thing we’d notice is that the rivers, lakes, ponds, puddles, and oceans would disappear. All life within them would perish within hours, and the continents we live on would suddenly tower over these newly created basins, most of which would be 3.8 kilometers (12,500 feet) deep.
The world would look a lot more like Antelope Canyon. Anton Foltin/Shutterstock
The Arctic would essentially stop existing, and the hidden bathymetry beneath it would resemble a series of jagged crevasses. The Antarctic, free from its icy duvet, would become a rocky, barren land full of mountains and unfathomably large canyons.
Clouds would no longer hang over the nations of the world, rain and snow would become extinct, hurricanes and thunderstorms would evaporate away into nothingness, and our pale blue dot would be decidedly more brown and green. Weather would be dominated by wind patterns and little else. Sandy deserts would spread across the planet.
Eventually, vegetation would die out. Animal life, including us, would soon follow suit and bite the literal dust.