Our Earth is a proverbial pale blue dot, thanks to the oceans and seas that cover 71 percent of our planet’s surface. The great blue expanse between the lands has been an enduring source of mystery, and there is still so much we don’t know about what lies at the bottom of it.
Imagining what the world would look like without the water is a very cool mental experiment and thanks to planetary scientist Dr James O'Donoghue of the Japan Space Agency (JAXA) we can see it happened in a glorious 4K animation.
Dr O'Donoghue's starting point was a NASA 2008 animation that showed surface water going down an imaginary plug hole. The quality of it was excellent for the time but doesn’t really cut it in our HD world. These NASA assets are free for everyone to use and can often be edited with some work if people want to improve the resolution. And in this case, Dr O'Donoghue went above and beyond.
Combining more recent data, the planetary scientist was able to create an animation that has 35 times more pixels, adding clearer numbers showing water level changes, and changing the timing to make sure that people could take it all in (although he also tweeted a quick version of it). The final piece is amazing, showing how separated islands are well connected to their continents, as well as the dramatic landscaped of mid-oceanic ridges.
“I was most surprised by the immediate appearance of land bridges, e.g. during the last Ice Age Britain and Europe were linked, Russia and Alaska were linked, and the region between Asia and Australia was largely connected,” Dr O'Donoghue told IFLScience. “These bridges enabled humans to migrate without boats, so this map goes a long way in explaining how a lot of human migration was possible back in the day. In other words it is a pre-history lesson!”
Dr O'Donoghue has a heap of fantastic animations on his YouTube Channel and when he’s not busy doing those he works on various aspects of Jupiter and Saturn. He was part of the team that studied how the iconic Saturn’s rings slowly but surely rain down on the planet below.