How Long Would It Take to Drain the Ocean?

February 15, 2024

With rising sea levels being a major environmental concern, it's tempting to consider purposefully draining the ocean to lower the risk of flooding. But that would have a devastating effect on marine life and drastically alter the Earth's climate. To get a sense of what the planet might look like if we drained its oceans, a Reddit user created an animation based on data from Natural Earth and the open source government Global Relief Model. The result is a stunning visualization of the world's water as it's drained through a hypothetical plug hole in the Mariana Trench.

The video reveals how the continents would change over time as they were slowly drained. One-time islands would connect to each other, previously underwater landscapes would come to the surface and previous stretches of coast line lengthen. The end result is a dry, desert-like planet with some impressive mountains — notably Olympus Mons and the crazy canyons known as Noctis Labyrinthus.

As the process continued over many millennia, the new land masses would become more and more defined. At the same time, the ice caps would melt as they lost their primary source of water. The global average temperature would rise, making the planet unbearably hot — so hot that forest fires could burn the entire dried-out map.

The answer to the question of how long it would take to drain the ocean largely depends on two things: how much water is in the ocean and what the rate at which that water flows through the hole will be. If we were to assume that the water would flow at a constant 50 mph, then it would take over 80 trillion years to fully drain.

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