3Develop is an enterprise in visualisation and design, based in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. I always liked browsing through atlases, studying street plans and dreaming away over maps. I practice the noble craft of cartography myself. Find posts and updates on cartography.
What would the world map look like if all the polar ice would melt? And how long does it take to get there? These are interesting questions now that climate change is – finally – on the political agenda. And as a cartographer, I could not resist the temptation to visualize the worst case scenario.
When the Greenland ice sheet melts, the sea level rises 7 meters, when the ice melts in Antarctica it causes a rise of 58 meters. So together that makes 65 meters. But that is an average.
Because something else plays a role: gravity. Such a lump of ice has a large mass and pulls the seawater towards it. When that attraction is no longer there, most of the sea level rise will take place on the other side of the world.
When the Greenland ice melts, here in Western Europe we’ll have relatively little trouble with that, because Greenland is nearby. But Antarctica is much further away. When the ice melts there, the sea level in the northern hemisphere is likely to rise much more than 65 meters.
There are more uncertain factors that imply you can’t simply take the 65-meter elevation line as the new coastline. When the ice melts, the land beneath it will rise up, for example. But former land that suddenly has a load of water on it will be pushed down. And if the sea level does not rise too quickly, the land can grow with it, because seas and rivers deposit sediments.
The map below is therefore an approximation. On average I have taken those 65 meters, but with a correction for the gravity effect: a little more rise in the northern hemisphere, a little less in the south.
The drowned land of Europe
Remarkably, the world map in general does not change as dramatically as one might expect. 95 percent of the land surface remains above sea level. Africa stays almost completely intact, Australia and South America only get a few inland seas. And just a few large bites are taken from Asia and North America.
But the ramifications for Europe are far-reaching. Our continent is no longer an attachment to Asia, but a bizarrely shaped archipelago. London, Rotterdam, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Saint Petersburg: only some skyscrapers protrude above the water, with concrete reefs and perhaps some floating settlements around them .
Good and bad news
The good news is that those ice caps won’t melt in a few years, or even a few decades or centuries. After the last ice age, the sea level rose approximately three meters per century. At that rate, it will take until 4000 AD before the world map will look like this.
The bad news is that a rise of a few meters would already be quite hard to handle. Too put it mildly.
Nothing can be said with certainty about the consequences of the rise in temperature and sea level for landscape and vegetation. But let’s be optimistic. When the temperature rises, precipitation will increase worldwide, so some deserts may turn a little bit greener. Australia in particular, with its two new inland seas, could benefit from this effect.
Siberia, now a kind of no-go area, will have a much milder, locally even Mediterranean climate. And after the great thaw, Greenland and Antarctica become a kind of Scandinavia, with vast pine forests and, allright, still a few glaciers.
In fact it looks pretty interesting, this world in 4000 AD, with its maximum water levels. You’d almost want to fast forward to take a look there. But consider the losses. It may be only five percent of the current land masses, but a large part of the world’s population lives there. Low-lying coastal areas are simply popular places to live.
In the Netherlands the coastline will shift to Heerlen-on-Sea in the deep south. The country will be reduced to a few dozen square kilometres. Hopefully, Greenland and Antarctica will welcome the flood refugees generously when the time comes.
It is also quite a hassle, by the way, to constantly build new coastal towns with boulevards and beaches and marinas and to have to give up within a century. And that over and over again for two millennia.
No, let’s try to keep warming under control. And let’s leave the terraforming for Mars.
Well in time for the European elections, it’s finished: the map of Europe in digital scrap wood. The third in a series; previously I made a scrap wood map of the Netherlands and the world.
The scrapwood map of Europe
Making this map was a bit more difficult than the previous two. Instead of 12 provinces or seven continents, we are dealing with 54 different countries big and small here. And for each of them I have searched for a separate piece of wood. Virtual wood, by the way, let there be no misunderstanding about it.
Central Europe in scrapwood
When making a map of Europe, one immediately has to deal with geopolitical issues. For example: what do we do with Crimea? I decided to follow the international community in not recognizing the Russian annexation of the peninsula.
The scrapwood map on the wall
From the other side of the Northsea I received a request for a version with the United Kingdom made of charred wood. But as an Anglophile as well as a European, I sincerely hope that the Brexit debate will not get out of hand in such a dramatic way.
And speaking of the UK: I have made England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland of different pieces of wood. They all have their own football team; that seems like a good criterion.
The scrapwood map the the provinces of the Netherlands was the most popular item in my Dutch webshop in 2018. That does not mean that the map is decorating walls in hundreds of living rooms, but it is still a modest success for this piece of virtual recycling.
After this achievement, I just had to make a world map in scrapwood as well and here it is… Just like the map of the Netherlands it was rendered in 3ds Max using digital scaffolding, plywood, planks, slats, floorboards and rusty nails.
The colors and textures were chosen quite randomly. Although: that snow (or is it paint?) on Antarctica is not entirely coincidental.
Like its predecessor, this world map is available, not only in my Dutch webshop but also worldwide, on various materials and on household items like shower curtains, pillows, duvet covers, beach towels and yoga mats . If it is going to sell just as well as its Dutch sister, I will also make a scrapwood map of Europe. That will be quite a job though, digitally jigsawing all those tiny countries.
Once again I have tried to imagine the point of view of one of the other species we humans share this planet with. After the penguins and the moles this time it’s the turn of the dolphins. How does a dolphin mapmaker see the world?
Sympathetic and intelligent
Dolphins are known as friendly animals. Are they really as sympathetic as they look or are we somewhat misled because their mouths are permanently in the smiley position? I would not dare to make any firm statements about that.
Dolphins are also known as intelligent beings. But how intelligent are they exactly? That too is an unanswered question. According to writer Douglas Adams, they are even more intelligent than everyone thinks; in his Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series, they are smart enough to leave Earth just before the planet is destroyed, with the famous last words: so long and thanks for all the fish.
But the fact that dolphins, as far as we know, do not make maps, has nothing to do with intelligence. Without hands to make pencils, felt-tip pens, laptops or other tools – or even to hold those tools – it’s hard to be a cartographer, no matter how smart you are.
One thing seems clear to me: if dolphins were to make maps, all the attention would be focused on the seas and oceans, with the continents as terra incognita. We humans sometimes venture out of our comfort zone, but the only possibility for a dolphin to visit the planet’s land masses is via a dolphinarium. And, as a dolphin, I don’t think I would be very keen on that.
Like with the molar projection, the dolphin’s map is mirrored in relation to our anthropocentric world maps. Dolphins look at the water surface from below; moreover, it makes sense to put the most interesting areas at the top of the map and let the white spots dangle at the bottom.
Atlantic and Pacific
Yet it’s not easy to completely get rid of the self-centered approach; that’s what I realized after I had completed the map shown above. White spot or not, Europe still holds a central position. Okay, then that’s obviously the world view of an Atlantic dolphin. A dolphin from the Pacific would probably make a map like this:
Yes, my name, Blok, means Block. In fact, the family name was Block until one of my ancestors moved to Rotterdam in the late 18th century and a lazy municipality official dropped the c.
In that light it’s amazing that it took so long for me to do something with the block theme. But here it finally is: a Block World Map.
The map consists of three grids, which are placed on top of each other. The largest blocks form a grid of 72 by 36; the attentive reader realizes immediately that each block corresponds to five degrees latitude and longitude. Underneath is a grid with blocks that are half the size; at the lowest level are quarter-sized blocks. And since my company’s name is 3Develop I had to introduce some relief by adding a shadow to the three layers.
The colors are realistic: red-brown for deserts, green for forests, white for snow and ice and blue for oceans. Or, well, realistic … maybe a bit exaggerated, for beauty’s sake.