What Would Happen If All The Water In The World Suddenly Disappeared?

With the oceans gone, the world would be one of gigantic canyons... and that's just for starters. Sergii Chernov/Shutterstock

Robin Andrews 05 Apr 2017, 15:31

This, however, is the obvious bits and bobs. You have probably guessed that we’d be completely screwed, but there’s more to the fate of the world than fragile Homo sapiens.

Turn Up The Heat

The oceans are the world’s greatest carbon sink. Forget the atmosphere, much of the thermal energy trapped in the planet’s atmosphere by greenhouse gases gets stored in the world’s oceans. In the past century alone, these gigantic bodies of water prevented Earth from warming an absolutely staggering 36°C (64.8°F), not the roughly 1°C (1.8°F) it experienced in reality.

Planets with too much carbon dioxide and methane and not enough water will likely experience a runaway global warming effect.

Take Venus, for example. It’s geologically very similar to our own world, and once upon a time likely had some surface water. This, however, clearly wasn’t enough to deal with all the carbon dioxide present in its atmosphere, much of which probably came from ancient and powerful volcanic eruptions.

Some of the carbon dioxide was absorbed into the water, but ultimately, the planet got too hot and the water boiled off into space. This left Venus without a significant carbon sink other than the atmosphere, so our neighbor kept warming until it reached its current surface temperature of around 462°C (864°F).

Without any water on Earth after the Great Dehydration attack of 2017, our planet would suffer a similar fate.

Don’t forget that vegetation has died out too. Without plants to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen through photosynthesis, the world would warm even faster.

What Lies Beneath

Most of the world's volcanoes would be found in the newly exposed ocean basins. yggdrasill/Shutterstock

Lest we forget that much of Earth’s water doesn’t merely reside at the surface.

Plenty of it hides underground, within the crust of the tectonic plates that continually drift around, come together, and break apart. Lots of it hides within the mantle, the superheated churning chunk of the planet that makes up 84 percent of its volume. Take away that water too and Earth will become entirely unrecognizable.

You see, when a dense plate moves into a less dense one, it sinks (“subducts”) beneath it. As the mantle heats it up, it dehydrates, and the water evaporates off and rises up into the wedge of mantle between the two plates.

Through a series of volcanological quirks, this sets up a magmatic plumbing system in the crust that produces explosive volcanoes, like the Cascades along the Western United States or Mount Fuji, for example. Without water, this process would not take place and there’d be a lot less volcanoes on Earth. Boo.

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