The Earth would NOT look like this without water. Please stop sharing this nonsense.
Water is an essential component of life on Earth. It covers over 70% of our planet’s surface and plays a vital role in sustaining both plant and animal life. Despite its importance, there has been a growing misconception that the Earth would look radically different if it were devoid of water.
The widely circulating images that depict Earth without water often exaggerate the elevations of the planet’s surface. These images show a much more rugged and mountainous landscape than the Earth’s actual topography. This is because these images are typically created using elevation data that has been scaled up to make the features more visible.
In reality, the Earth’s topography is much smoother and more gradual than what is depicted in these images. While the planet does have significant mountain ranges such as the Himalayas and the Andes, and there are deep ocean trenches too, but, these are relatively small compared to the overall size of the Earth.
Here are the numbers: the Earth has a diameter of about 12,735 kilometers (on average). The highest point on Earth is the top of Mount Everest, at 8,848 meters (29,029 feet). The deepest point on Earth is the Mariana Trench, at about 11 km (6.8 miles) deep. Make the calculations and you can see, the Earth definitely would NOT look like as shown in the image below without water:
The image above actually shows Earth’s gravitational field, and the variations in this geoid height are thousand times exaggerated (“Earth potato”). In reality, the Earth’s shape is very close to a sphere (for more details, see the reference paper).
This image was produced with MATLAB, and the original title is “MATLAB script for 3D visualizing geodata on a rotating globe”. MATLAB (matrix laboratory) is a multi-paradigm numerical computing environment and fourth-generation programming language.
You can see the original paper by clicking here.
The Earth does not look like a potato, it is round because of the hydrostatic equilibrium.
Below is another widely shared but also equally wrong image depicting Earth without water. In fact, the elevations are widely exaggerated. Earth’s oceans aren’t a thousand miles deep! In fact, the average depth of the Earth’s oceans is 14,000 feet (4,267 meters), and the deepest point is at 36,069.55 feet ± 131.234 feet (10,994 meters ± 40 meters).
Here’s how Earth would actually look without water
This is actually what the Earth would look like without water below:
The drawing above shows blue spheres representing relative amounts of Earth’s water in comparison to the size of the Earth. Are you surprised that these water spheres look so small? They are only small in relation to the size of the Earth.
This image attempts to show three dimensions, so each sphere represents “volume.” The volume of the largest sphere, representing all the water on, in, and above the Earth, would be about 332,500,000 cubic miles (mi3) or 1,386,000,000 cubic kilometers (km3), and be about 860 miles (about 1,385 kilometers) in diameter.
The smaller sphere over Kentucky represents Earth’s liquid freshwater in groundwater, swamp water, rivers, and lakes. The volume of this sphere would be about 2,551,000 mi3 (10,633,450 km3) and form a sphere of about 169.5 miles (272.8 kilometers) in diameter. Yes, all of this water is freshwater, which we all need every day, but much of it is deep in the ground, unavailable to humans.
Did you notice the “tiny” bubble over Atlanta, Georgia? That one represents freshwater in all the lakes and rivers on the planet. Most of the water people and life on Earth need every day comes from these surface-water sources.
The volume of this sphere is about 22,339 mi3 (93,113 km3). The diameter of this sphere is about 34.9 miles (56.2 kilometers). Yes, Lake Michigan looks way bigger than this sphere, but you have to try to imagine a bubble almost 35 miles high-whereas the average depth of Lake Michigan is less than 300 feet (91 meters).
Ignore these water spheres, and you’ll see what Earth actually would look like without water. In fact, the oceans are too shallow compared to Earth’s diameter. But no, the Earth isn’t as smooth as a cue ball, either.
Earth’s water vs Europa’s water
Scientists’ consensus is that a layer of liquid water exists beneath Europa’s surface. It is estimated that the outer crust of solid ice is approximately 10-30 kilometers (6-19 mi) thick, including a ductile “warm ice” layer, which could mean that the liquid ocean underneath may be about 100 kilometers (60 mi) deep. This leads to a volume of Europa’s oceans of 3×1018 m3, between two or three times the volume of Earth’s oceans.
Europa (Jupiter II, diameter: 3,122 km / 1,940 mi) is the smallest of the four Galilean moons orbiting Jupiter and the sixth closest to the planet. It has a smooth and bright surface, with a layer of water surrounding the mantle of the planet, thought to be 100 kilometers thick. The smooth surface includes a layer of ice, while the bottom of the ice is theorized to be liquid water.
The apparent youth and smoothness of the surface have led to the hypothesis that a water ocean exists beneath it, which could conceivably serve as an abode for extraterrestrial life. Heat energy from tidal flexing ensures that the ocean remains liquid and drives geological activity.
Life may exist in Europa’s under-ice ocean, perhaps subsisting in an environment similar to Earth’s deep-ocean hydrothermal vents or Antarctica’s Lake Vostok. Life in such an ocean could possibly be similar to microbial life on Earth in the deep ocean.
Related: Oceans of the Solar System
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