Math! How much water is required to raise sea level by 20 feet (6m)?

🙂 Just a math time for myself to think through…
Some said (you probably know who :P), by some time in the future (am not sure whether the time is specifically given out or not), global warming (GW) might cause sea level to rise another 20 feet (6m). I am curious to know how much ice sheet thickness (or how much water) is required to raise 6m sea, just by a simple reverse calculation.
Essential information (via Wikipedia, my ever reliable companion!):

                              Area (km^2) 

Antartica               13,720,000 (ice-covered area)
Ocean                    361,000,000
US (land)               9,631,420
Malaysia (land)      329,647

#1: The water volume to raise sea level by 6m

      = 0.006 (km) x 361,000,000 km^2
      = 2.166 x 10^6 km^3

So, if the ice sheet is as big as…

i) Malaysia:

                The thickness of ice sheet to be melted = (2.166 x 10^6)/(329 847)
                                                                      = 6.567km or 6567m!

ii) US:  

                The thickness of ice sheet to be melted = (2.166 x 10^6)/9 631 420
                                                                      = 224.9m!

iii) Antartic:

                The thickness of ice sheet to be melted = (2.166 x 10^6)/13 720 000
                                                                      = 0.158km = 157.9m

Let’s assume 2 time frame is given for such scenario is given and ice sheet melting rate is constant, a) 50 years and b) 100 years.

a) For ice sheet in whole area of Antartic to lose 157.9m in 50 years,

                                       Rate = 157.9 m/50 y = 3.158 m/y = 8.65mm per day

b) happen in 100 years? 8.65mm/day divide by 2 = 4.32 mm/day

For a) or b) to happen, obvious assumptions as below are made:
1- the whole area of Antartica is melting, i.e. 13,720,000 km^2.
2- the rate of melting is constant throughout 50 or 100 years (and in turn assuming the heat input for ice melting is consistent).
3- ice sheet melting away is a one-way process, no ice sheet will be formed.

More to check out Sea Level Rise from Wikipedia, and some data on ice sheet, glaciers and etc on Earth.


  1. Liew said,

    March 25, 2007 at 2:26 am

    you do realize global warming is just a fragment of your imagination, don’t u?

  2. mich said,

    March 25, 2007 at 7:28 am

    if it is only a fragment of my imagination, i think a lot of people is strangely connected to this imagnation (global warming, not even it is man-made issue) as well, like.. IPCC? 😛
    For me, I am still thinking through this problem… any input?

  3. Jeremy said,

    March 28, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    FIGMENT of your imagination. FIGMENT! Get your damn words straight.

  4. David said,

    December 29, 2008 at 6:49 am

    You might add this fragment to that figment as well, only ice that is supported by land will raise the sea level when melted. floating ice has already had its affect, so melting it does not further affect sea levels.

  5. turtle said,

    May 11, 2009 at 10:58 am


  6. Scott King said,

    February 5, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    You guys were really misled, weren’t you?

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