New York City, NY

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

Toni Koraza

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With over 18.8 million people, New York City is the most populous city in the US. The Big Apple has a vibrant mix of cultures within its five boroughs. It’s home to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Wall Street, Central Park, and over 7000 skyscrapers.

So, would you still be able to land at JFK, go to a game at Yankee Stadium, or see a show on Broadway if something crazy happened, like having all the ice on the planet melt?

Melting Glaciers and Ice Sheets

When glaciers and ice sheets melt, it’s different from ice melting in your Manhattan cocktail glass. Your drink might taste diluted, but it won’t overflow because of a little thing called water displacement. The floating ice in your drink displaces an amount of water equal to its weight.

However, most of the world's ice is above rather than in the water, frozen in towering glaciers and mountains. When glaciers melt, it’s like an absentminded bartender trying to fit more ice into a glass that’s already full. The result? An overflowing mess.

The US Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that if all the ice on earth melted, sea levels would rise to 230 feet. While most of New York City is 33 feet above sea level, that’s not enough to keep the city above water.

Even if the sea level rises just 20 feet, NASA’s flood maps show most of New York City underwater.

There would be an island from about Grand Central Station to the Tropical Zone of the Central Park Zoo.

You’d also see a mile-wide (or less) strip of land east of the Hudson River from 66th Street to parts of Tallman Mountain State Park, but with a new coastline.

There would be small islands here and there: perhaps one west of the submerged George Washington Bridge and a few in Yonkers.

Are You Concerned About Rising Sea Levels?

Some of New York (particularly Manhattan) is likely to be underwater by 2050, so don’t forget to send messages to your friends in New York while it’s still above water.

If you have concerns about rising sea levels, comment below or share this story on social media.

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