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Could there be a flooded Earth?


thecynicalmonk
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Hi everyone

Well first of all I must point out that I am not a scientist in any way, but I do have a couple of science-related things I would like to ask purely for a novel I am writing... I hope you will bear with me and I very much appreciate any responses!

 

At the moment it seems clear that due to global warming the Earth's ice caps are melting and this will eventually cause coastlines to be eroded. Some cities may even disappear underwater.

But what I want to ask is: Is there any scientifically plausible scenario (however far-fetched this may be) which would cause all of the Earth to be completely flooded or in imminent danger of being so?

One thing that did occur to me was that perhaps some of the pollutants being released into the atmosphere could combine in an unexpected way and affect rainfall, causing its water density to increase drastically... So a single rainstorm would release much more "concentrated" drops of water, causing severe flooding, adding to the problem of rising tides, and leading eventually to flooding of over three quarters of current land mass. I know this is far-fetched, but is there any way, scientifically speaking, that this could be possible?

I am aware of the scenario put forward by Stephen Baxter in his novel "Flood", in which he suggests the Earth becomes flooded as a result of seismic shifts which then release vast underwater reservoirs. But I need something different, or I'd just be copying his idea... Does anyone feel my rainfall density idea "holds water" (apologies for the pun)?

The other thing I would like to ask is regarding which area of science would be trying to solve such a flooding problem. Imagine two young, inexperienced scientists desperately trying to make a name for themselves by making a lot of the water "disappear". I'm not talking about some sort of civil engineering project, more an experimental method which involves delving into unknown areas of science and trying to alter water at a molecular level. In their recklessness they actually end up vapourising (or otherwise making disappear) far too much of the ocean water, leaving the Earth with dry seabeds.
Which area of science would such individuals be likely to belong to? Would they be physicists? Chemists? Hydrologists? Could anyone point me in the right direction here as (I'm sure you can tell) I'm not a scientist myself.

Many thanks for all your ideas!

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Something to remember, and presumably the reason why Stephen Baxter would have used undiscovered reservoirs of water for his story, is that there is a (relatively) fixed amount of water on the Earth. To get rain, some of it needs to evaporate, go into the air and then fall back down. So you can have heavier rains, but that just means more water falling at once, not that there there would actually be more water. The extra water has to come from somewhere. It can't just start raining new water out of nowhere.

 

So you can move water around in the system (have water trapped in ice sheets melt and pour into the ocean), introduce new water into the system (Baxter's reservoirs or, say, an icy comet), but you can't have heavier rains cause the entire world to flood because there simply isn't enough water around to do that.

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I doubt there is enough water in Oort Cloud comets to flood the Earth.

Global Flood

But the literalist young Earth timescale of around 6000 years rules out this possibility. Thus the scale of the mythological flood should be considered given the current land mass of the Earth. This has some interesting implications if we assume that it really did happen. Assuming that there was no magical transformation of the landscape between the time of the flood and now — something reasonable considering the time frame — the floodwaters would have to raise the sea level to height of Mount Everest, at least, in line with the Biblical description stating that the waters came up higher than the highest mountains. This is around 8.84 km above current sea level. Since the volume of land is small compared to the total volume of water that would be required for such a flood (oceans cover 71% of the Earth's surface and the average height of land is only about 800 metres), an easy calculation shows the amount of water needed to achieve this would be at least 4.5 billion cubic kilometres. The current volume of the Earth's oceans combined is estimated at only 1.3 billion cubic kilometres. This raises the question of where did that much water come from, and more importantly, where did it all go?

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OK, thanks for all your ideas everyone, please keep them coming!

Delta1212 - I get what you're saying, that there is only so much water on Earth and there isn't enough to flood all the land (or a large part of it). But can anyone envisage a situation where the very physical molecular structure of rainfall water is altered (by chemical pollutants for instance), making the water denser (if that is the right word) so that it physically occupies more space than it normally would (e.g. a rainstorm of 1 cubic litre of water per hectare would be the equivalent of, say, 10 cubic litres of water)?

I know this is very far-fetched, but could it theoretically happen, and if so, under what circumstances? Is it conceivable that man-made contaminants could change rainfall in this way (if clouds contained some kind of a gas or crystalline substance created by pollution which in turn brought about this "mutation"?)

 

Thanks for all your considered and imaginative responses!

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OK, thanks for all your ideas everyone, please keep them coming!

Delta1212 - I get what you're saying, that there is only so much water on Earth and there isn't enough to flood all the land (or a large part of it). But can anyone envisage a situation where the very physical molecular structure of rainfall water is altered (by chemical pollutants for instance), making the water denser (if that is the right word) so that it physically occupies more space than it normally would

 

That is less dense, rather than more. And no, it is impossible. You can very slightly reduce the density (increase the volume) of water by freezing it. And of course, ice doesn't flow so that could cover land surfaces.

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Wait long enough.

Erosion will flatten the mountains and fill in the sub-sea valleys and the water will spread over what's left.

This might take a while- probably longer than the expected life-time of the sun.

If seismic activity continued, it might take longer than you think. I wonder how long it would take for the earth to become geologically dead?

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That is less dense, rather than more. And no, it is impossible. You can very slightly reduce the density (increase the volume) of water by freezing it. And of course, ice doesn't flow so that could cover land surfaces.

I'm all aboard on not enough water to flood Earth and ice being less dense than water per unit volume, but ice does flow as is evidenced by glaciers.
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I doubt there is enough water in Oort Cloud comets to flood the Earth.

I think that's along the lines of a pretty good suggestion though. A hitherto undetected ice asteroid field takes on the Earth in a great snowball fight. A real meteor "shower".

 

Assuming it is steady and unrelenting until it floods the Earth, Everest included, my quick back of the envelope calculation says it would take about 5 weeks and 5 days.

Edited by J.C.MacSwell
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@MacSwell I spoke without checking. There should be enough water in the comets. But, a six week bombardment might be bad for life on Earth, besides comets don't visit the inner solar system very often.

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@MacSwell I spoke without checking. There should be enough water in the comets. But, a six week bombardment might be bad for life on Earth, besides comets don't visit the inner solar system very often.

That's why I was thinking more of a stray field of ice asteroids...perhaps escaped from another solar system after some plausible event.

 

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A long time ago, on a forum far, far away, I handed out my million dollar idea here for free to anyone who wanted to get on board the gravy train of creation science book writing.

 

Because one of the easiest and most lucrative endeavors one can undertake is writing a superficially plausible, quasi-scientific book that the ever-busy US fundamentalist publishing industry can promote as evidence for the Biblical creation story. Guys like Behe have made a ton of money at this - you can too.

 

All you need is a graduate degree for credibility - preferably a doctorate, but there are some such folks here, right? - and a willingness to sacrifice your reputation and integrity (because you have to go on talk shows and stuff, you can't hide behind a pseudonym for very long).

 

And you need an idea. Which I now provide (because as far as I know nobody picked it up, before).

 

Here it is: Long, long, but not too long, ago, the Earth was much smaller. There was less gravity, of course, so animals (and people) could grow very large and live longer, and things were closer together without these big oceans, so these larger and longer lived animals could walk from one place to another. The atmosphere was thicker, and had more oxygen. Everything was easier.

 

Then one day a huge batch of comets, all made of ice and stuff, collided with it. But this was a very unusual collision for some reason, almost as if it were designed - not the random kind we see now, at high speed from crossing the orbit, but a very slow and gentle impact as they caught up from behind in the Earth's orbit, moving just a bit faster than the Earth. Lots and lots of them. They mostly came in onto Antarctica and the north pole. And the collision speed was just high enough so they all melted, or mostly melted (some ice piled up in Antarctica, and around the north pole, and in some high places on mountains), without heating anything up otherwise. So they splashed all over, the water raining down in huge falls of rain everywhere and flowing over the surface.

 

Then, after this inundation had covered the smaller planet, it soaked into the ground - and the planet swelled, like a sponge. As it swelled, the land broke apart and the pieces separated into the continents we see today, while the water ran into the hollows between them. The splitting opened up rifts and volcanoes, and the pieces carried with them the animals that happened to be on them. It took a long time for the soaking and swelling and splitting to create what we see today - a couple of thousand years. Huge volumes of water ran off the upswelling continents, carving ravines and carrying sediments and minerals and salts and stuff into what we now know as oceans.

 

Ok - that's the basics. Pad it with some scientific evidence (did you know science just recently discovered huge amounts of water soaked into the rocks under all the continents? The scientists are just now catching up with the Bible!). Write it up in chapters, not forgetting some examples of doubting "scientists" being convinced by the weight of your evidence (a couple of chapters at least) and disbelieving elites saying things that sound foolish in light of the truth.

 

And don't forget to cut me in a little, in gratitude. I'll get in touch through your publisher.

Edited by overtone
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There is an "expanding Earth" theory that covers some of this evidence as well as getting rid of plate tectonics, which is obviously some sort of conspiracy. (The most prolific promoter is some comic book artist whose name escapes me.) But I am not sure they have a mechanism as "plausible" as yours.

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  • 3 weeks later...

If you'll accept a much slower rain it could happen. Some sad there is not enough water on Earth to do this. Since there's no feasible mechanism to get all the water on Earth into rain in the first place this isn't all that important anyway. Instead, if a large comet hits the earth. Since it's mostly gas and ice you get rain, rain and more rain.

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One comet doesn't have enough water. An asteroid the size of Mt. Everest (6 miles wide) hit Earth once; it ended the dinosaur era because it exploded with the power of 100 trillion tons of TNT. An ice comet of similar size hitting the Earth would explode with similar power. They travel so fast hitting the atmosphere is almost like hitting concrete. Moreover, a six mile wide chunk of ice would change the ocean level by almost nothing. A chunk of ice large enough to fill the earth with water to cover Mt. Everest would destroy all life, and might vaporize the oceans and melt the surface of Earth. There are 22,000 m3 of water on Earth, which is about 28 miles across, but not nearly enough water to cover Mt. Everest. Moreover, that water would always be on Earth, forever after.

Edited by EdEarl
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One comet doesn't have enough water. An asteroid the size of Mt. Everest (6 miles wide) hit Earth once; it ended the dinosaur era because it exploded with the power of 100 trillion tons of TNT. An ice comet of similar size hitting the Earth would explode with similar power. They travel so fast hitting the atmosphere is almost like hitting concrete. Moreover, a six mile wide chunk of ice would change the ocean level by almost nothing. A chunk of ice large enough to fill the earth with water to cover Mt. Everest would destroy all life, and might vaporize the oceans and melt the surface of Earth. There are 22,000 m3 of water on Earth, which is about 28 miles across, but not nearly enough water to cover Mt. Everest. Moreover, that water would always be on Earth, forever after.

 

 

But as you can see, my slow comets onto a smaller Earth - with the water soaking in and swelling the planet - takes care of all those objections. Look at all the water soaked into the rocks under Mt Everest, swelling and pushing it up! Science has discovered it, it's scientific fact. Here's a report about the science: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2878885/Huge-quantities-Earth-s-oldest-water-discovered-deep-underground-supporting-unknown-lifeforms.html

Edited by overtone
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Those rocks and water are 2.7 billion years old, and Earth did have continents above water at that time. There were no large plants and animals at that time, and the atmosphere contained little or oxygen.

 

Since tectonic processes continually expose new rock, mostly under the ocean, and bury old rock, it is likely water cycles with rock into the depths of the earth and out again. Is there evidence that all that water was on the surface at one time, reference?

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  • 4 weeks later...

Did the Bible ever really make any mention of Mount Everest?

 

What influence does the amount of atmospheric water have on the tendency for release of water molecules from the exosphere?

 

Any externally added water would only be temporary wouldn't it? Mother Earth's checks and balances would see to that.

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Did the Bible ever really make any mention of Mount Everest?

The Bible says it rained 40 days and nights and flooded, and that nowhere was safe except the Ark. It didn't mention Mt. Everest because bronze age people in the Middle East didn't know about it.

 

What influence does the amount of atmospheric water have on the tendency for release of water molecules from the exosphere?

What? You mean how much water escapes the Earth into space. IDK. Since we have an atmosphere, is suspect that heavier water molecules are less likely to escape the Earth than oxygen and nitrogen.

 

Any externally added water would only be temporary wouldn't it? Mother Earth's checks and balances would see to that.

There is nothing to prevent a planet from being covered in water, except the amount of water and smoothness of land. Gliese 1214 b is called a water world, because it is thought to be covered in water.

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Since we have an atmosphere, is suspect that heavier water molecules are less likely to escape the Earth than oxygen and nitrogen.

 

A water molecule is not heavier than a nitrogen or oxygen molecule.

However all of them are heavy enough to stay here.

The same is not true of H2 and He which is why they are rare in the atmosphere.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Particle/object can escape Earth, when it's accelerated to velocity higher than escape velocity
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escape_velocity
If particle is already above atmosphere, it could happen because of hitting it by highly accelerated cosmic ray particle.

(at the end of Sun, amount of cosmic ray particles, emitted and accelerated by the Sun, will be so large that they will vaporize/ionize the whole atmosphere)

Hydrogen (~0.09 g/L) and Helium (~0.18 g/L) gather in the outermost region of atmosphere,
as they are significantly less dense than Oxygen (~1.43 g/L) / Nitrogen (~1.25 g/L).

Water vapor (~0.8 g/L) is less dense than Oxygen and Nitrogen, but the higher altitude, there is lower pressure and low temperature, and it turns to solid form of matter, which are source of crystals.

Disallowing it to reach even higher altitudes.

 

ps. I never understood why some people write H(twenty), instead of H(two)O...

Edited by Sensei
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