Mapping a World without Polar Ice Caps

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What would the world look like tomorrow if the polar ice caps suddenly melted overnight? There is only one certainty in this situation: the world as you know it would look drastically different. For Americans, countless coastal cities would be lost, and the familiar coastline on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts would look much different than it does today.


Global warming and the melting of polar ice caps is not an American problem though, and would not have repercussions felt only in the United States. If the ice caps melted tomorrow as a result of continued global warming, billions of people around the world would wake up to immense changes in the landscape of planet Earth. This stunning map shows what the world would look like if the polar ice caps melted completely.


North America

Canada’s Hudson Bay would gain significant ground, but most major Canadian cities would be spared. The United States would change little inland, but its coastal areas would suffer heavily. The entire state of Florida would be wiped off the map, along with every major city along the Eastern Seaboard. New Orleans would be a memory and the Mississippi River Delta would be a massive bay that reaches up toward St. Louis, Missouri. The only remaining glimpse of modern life in California will be those buildings on the hills of San Francisco, which would stand as a cluster of islands.


Elsewhere, the Yucatan Peninsula would be a shell of its former self. Nations such as Panama would become razor thin. The vast majority of Cuba would be under water, and many of the beloved Caribbean island nations would vanish beneath the waves.


South America

Coastal regions along the northern coast of South America would suffer the most, although Argentina and Brazil would lose significant tracts of land. In Brazil, the Amazon River Basin would expand immensely and the Atlantic Ocean would pour into the center of the continent. The Paraguay River Basin in the south would bring similar devastation, wiping out coastal stretches of Uruguay and much of inland Paraguay.



Netherlands and Denmark will be distant memories if the polar ice caps melt. A complete melting would smother both nations completely. Coastal regions of Sweden will suffer and London will disappear from the map as the Adriatic Sea rises. The expanding Mediterranean Sea will reclaim Venice, Italy, and swell the estuaries of the Black and Caspian Seas, turning vast stretches of Russia and Eastern Europe into wastelands.



Countless island nations in Asia and the South Pacific would disappear overnight. Vietnam would be completely underwater, and as the Mekong Delta overflows, Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains would stand as an island in the middle of the Pacific. Although China’s interior stretches would be saved, much like the United States, its major coastal cities would be lost to the sea. Area now inhabited by more than 600 million Chinese people would vanish beneath the waves.


If all the talk about global warming and climate change isn’t enough to spur action, perhaps maps such as this one that depict a very different world from the one we know today will encourage mankind to act.

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