Water/Wastewater

  • What Would Happen in a World Without Water?

What Would Happen in a World Without Water?

May 22 2017 Read 15264 Times

It goes without saying that the human race wouldn’t last very long in a world without water. The same can be said of all animals and plants, as well, since H2O constitutes one of the building blocks necessary for life to thrive.

But what would happen to the planet itself? With no oceans, rivers or lakes, it would certainly look altogether different, but in what other ways would it change? Here are a few possible consequences if all of the water on our great green Earth vanished overnight.

Changing faces

For starters, it wouldn’t be quite so green for very long. With no water supply, all vegetation would soon die out and the world would resemble a brownish dot, rather than a green and blue one. Clouds would cease to formulate and precipitation would stop as a necessary consequence, meaning that the weather would be dictated almost entirely by wind patterns.

Indeed, other than fluctuations in wind force, our climate would resemble one endless summer – but not the shorts-and-t-shirt, holiday kind; the flesh-meltingly hot kind. The oceans of the world constitute the biggest deposits of carbon (and recently it was found that Arctic melting released nitrous oxides (NO2) and sulphur dioxide (SO2), as well). With these “sinks” gone, the greenhouse gases would have a field day and temperatures would spiral out of control.

Of course, the absence of vegetation would contribute to the problem (since plants would not be around to convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into oxygen), thus exacerbating the situation. Today’s climate change issues would seem small fry in comparison.

Less volcanoes, more mountains

Perhaps surprisingly, however, volcanic activity would decrease in the face of a water dearth. Volcanos, supervolcanos and their eruptions are actually caused by tectonic plates colliding with each other and running over one another – something which is generally caused by the weight of oceans pushing one plate beneath another.

What’s more, once the volcano has been formed, water also plays an integral role in its volatility. Liquid inside the Earth’s crust at high temperatures and high pressures becomes magma, resulting in eruptions like the one at Vesuvius which did for poor old Pompeii.

Therefore, with no ocean to weigh plates down and no water to power eruptions, we’d be left with a series of incredibly high mountain ridges any time two tectonic plates collided. Of course, such a process would take millennia to occur, but the end result would be a desert-like, barren globe populated by spiky ridges and gulfing chasms.

Let there be life

Remarkably, however, this wouldn’t mean the end of all life on Earth. Evolution has a funny way of persevering even in the most difficult of circumstances, and over the millennia, certain microbes known as “extremophiles” have evolved to be capable of life without water.

Instead, extremophiles harvest their nutrients from carbon monoxide (CO), meaning they can thrive even in sizzlingly hot or acidic environments, without water or sunlight. Some of them inhabit the Earth’s crust, while others are effectively dormant in a state of suspended animation inside gigantic subterranean crystals.

So while humanity and the animal kingdom would most certainly snuff it, life would still find a way.

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