Orlando, FL

What will Orlando look like if all ice on Earth melts? Here's your answer

Toni Koraza

Image by 25or6to4, CC BY-SA 3.0

Orlando is the theme park capital of the world. It’s a hot tourist destination that sees countless people coming to visit its manmade and natural attractions every year.

However, it’s in Florida, the most hurricane-prone state in the union. Furthermore, Orlando borders the most hurricane-prone part of the state. So even without sea-level rise, Orlando is no stranger to getting waterlogged.

Initially, it wouldn’t be that bad. Compared to most of the Sunshine State, Orlando's elevation is pretty high at about 50 feet. So, while a 10-foot sea-level rise would threaten Miami, it wouldn’t even tickle the Wheel. Currently, it is estimated that Florida will see a 1-2 foot rise in sea levels soon, and potentially up to 10 feet if Thwaites Glacier cracks open before the end of this decade.

It’d be great if that story ends here, but it doesn't. At the rate climate change is going, things will get a whole lot worse for Florida several centuries from now.

What happens if all the ice melts?

The USGS estimates that about 99% of the planet’s fresh water is locked away in glaciers.

For context, if all the fresh water in the world filled a five-gallon bucket, the potable water we have access to would only be about two tablespoons worth.

With that amount of ice still left, climate scientists think that if all of it were to melt, we could easily see a sea-level rise of up to 230 feet (or 70 meters). However, this will take several thousand years at the current rate of polar ice loss.

As a state, Florida’s highest points further inland might be safe, but all those theme parks would be underwater. Disney World? Gone. Universal Studios? Drowned and abandoned. Amway Center? A soggy husk.

At 100 feet of sea-level rise, Orlando would become a patchy series of islands dotted with lagoons. International Drive would turn into something more akin to the canals of Venice, only traversable by boat. Initially, this might become a selling point of the city; Floridians are stubborn, after all.

But at 230 feet, almost no part of Florida would be above water, including Orlando.

Are you worried about the future of Orlando?

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