Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Follow up to below post 

UPDATE: Okay, I misplaced a couple of zeros somewhere in the calculations... but the end result, the number of 1-megaton nuclear bombs required to melt all the ice near the earth's poles, will still be well into the millions.

"The Day After Tomorrow," the movie that has drawn Al Gore's attention as an environmental rallying point, supposedly tells the story of a new ice age starting "three days after the polar ice caps melt."

There's a lot of ice in those caps, but let's do the math just for fun, shall we?

There is approximately 32.3 million cubic kilometers of ice in the Antarctic sheet, the Greenland sheet, and in Arctic sea ice. At an average ice density of 900 kilograms per cubic meter, that's 29,070,000,000,000,000,000 kilograms total mass.

29.07 quintillion kilograms...

It takes about 370 joules of energy to melt one gram of ice at -10 degrees Celcius. Actual polar ice is slightly colder than that on average, but it's close enough.

Given that ratio, it would require:
333 million joules per cubic meter, or
333 quadrillion joules per cubic kilometer, or, with 32.3 million cubic kilometers of ice to melt,
10,755,900,000,000,000,000,000,000 joules of energy, in a very short period of time, to melt the ice caps and make this movie realistic.

That's five orders of magnitude larger than the annual U.S. energy consumption, for those keeping score.

Put another way, it's the same as the energy released by 2,560,928,571 nuclear bombs of one megaton each.

In other words, the sudden melting of the ice caps is a fantasically ludicrous scenario.

But it's not stopping Al Gore from rallying his environmental nutjobs.
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