Stories about the loss of Arctic sea ice and the melting of the Greenland ice sheet have become commonplace in our warming world, but have you ever wondered what the planet would look like if all of it – every last mountain glacier and chunk of polar ice – melted for good?
National Geographic explored this exact scenario in a newly released set of artists' renderings of how Earth's coastlines would look if sea levels worldwide rose by 216 feet, the volume the magazine estimates is possible if all of the ice now on land melts away into the ocean.
The illustrations show what every continent in the world would look like in this scenario, with all of the world's current 5 million cubic miles of ice melted (which scientists say would take more than 5,000 years). From Houston, New Orleans, and Miami to Charleston, New York, and Boston – if this came to pass, all of them would be wiped off the map forever.
MORE: Glaciers in Retreat
Grinnell Glacier, Glacier National Park (1938 and 2009)
A side-by-side comparison of Grinnell Glacier in Montana's Glacier National Park. The black-and-white photo on the left dates from 1938, while the color photo on the right was taken in 2009. (T.J. Hileman and Lindsey Bengtson, USGS)