What would be the quickest way to melt Antarctica?

Perhaps we could just drop as many nuclear bombs as possible on Antarctica, or maybe put all the oil in the world on top of it and light it. Any other suggestions?

I seriously doubt al the nuclear weapons on earth combined would melt any but a small percentage of the Antarctic icecap. Remember it’s up to three miles thick in places.

You might have more luck covering the continent with a black dye. Though that would be a truly huge undertaking and would take constant reapplication.

There are an estimated 6,000,000 cubic miles of ice covering Antarctica.
To change 1 cubic mile of ice at 0C to water would require 4.16 x10^15 calories (latent heat of fusion of water is 80 cal/g * the number of grams in a cubic mile). 1 Megaton of TNT is equivalent to 9.9216 x 10^14 calories, so it would take 335.4 Megatons to melt 1 cubic mile of ice. Multiplying by 6 Million gives 2 Billion Megatons required (give or take). This says that the current US nuclear arsenal is around 2300 Megatons. If we assume that Russia is about the same, and everyone else is half that, then we get a total of 5750 MT, or enough to melt .0002875% of the ice.

So, global warming is probably faster (since an estimated 20-40 cubic miles of ice are melting every year, currently).

200 male college students and a Taco Bell. The toxic methane cloud will melt the ice within a week.

I suppose it is silly to inject science into it, but, if you melt it in a short period of time, you alter so many other factors about the world’s climate it is hard to even guess what happens, like perhaps turning the nearly desert snowfall rates of much of the continent into unending blizzards from all the condensing water vapor, and probably overwhelming the circum-polar currents and wind patterns that curently isolate the Antarctic climate zone from the rest of the planet. The energy you add to the polar region might melt the ice, but after that, it’s still there. And it is going elsewhere fairly dramatically.


Not to mention that I would assume a lot of that ice is at some temp less than 0C.

We could always dump a whole bunch of salt on it. I’ll leave it to the chemists to figure out how much would be required, though my guess is that the number is skillions of times larger than the annual world production of NaCl.

I know this is a throwaway joke but it’s so confusing me. Why would Taco Bell cause gas? Would female college students be immune to the effects?

First of all, you will want to focus your energy on places where the ice is thin or scant. Increasing the land area exposed to sunlight will help increase local temperature due to the change in reflectivity. Our current atomic arsenal could be used to accomplish this step. This will help push along a runaway process that has already begun due to global warming. The next step (in order to speed things along) will be to transport radioactive materials to Antarctica and build primitive nuclear reactors to generate heat. Even spent nuclear fuel/nuclear waste generates heat. Continuously. For thousands of years.

200 girls won’t do?


Scattering large amounts of black particles over the ice surface might help warm it up too, since white ice reflects sunlight so efficiently.

Wait for Planet X to disturb Earth’s rotation in December 2012, flipping Antarctica up onto the equatorial plane.

Also, note that when a human body is subjected to cold it can radiate over 10000kcal/day. That’s 10E7 calories per day. 7 billion people x 10E7 calories = 7x10E16 calories per day. Just saying.

Dial up the mass and charge of solar neutrinos to about that of a proton.
The resultant friction would melt the ice cap tout de suite.

  1. Perhaps you’re immune to the gastro-intestinal effects of greasy pseudo-Mexican food, especially when it contains beans.

  2. It would probably work with women, too, but guys seem to be more…ebullient…with their flatulence. :smiley:

There is nothing on the scale of modern industrial energy conversion–even thermonuclear weapons–that would seriously make a dent in the Antarctic ice sheets. However, there is a gigantic fusion energy source that gives off vastly more energy than needed for this task. I am, of course, referring to the Sun, and it remains only to concentrate some small additional fraction of its output on the southern polar region. I would suggest a large array of fresnel lenses set in either Molnyia orbits or a single large lens stationed at the L1 libration point with a keel to keep it oriented at the Antarctic.


I saw a war movie once, in which one line made a strong impression on me. The object was to blow up a dam; 3 soldiers infiltrated the dam, set the charges; rejoined demolitions expert, reported that he’d miscalculated: all that TNT had only made a few tiny holes in the concrete.

The expert laughed: “You thought a few 100 pounds of explosives would be enough to bring down that big dam? :smack: The force of the water will bring the dam down!” And sure enough, the trickles of water emerging from the dam face got bigger and bigger, and soon the whole dam crumbled. (I’ve no idea if this was technically correct.)

Nor do I have any specific suggestions for melting Anarctica. Why are we doing that, by the way? :cool:

According to the APS a barrel of oil contains 610^9 joules of heat energy. Using 310^5 joules/kg as the heat-of-fusion of ice, this means that one barrel of oil is enough to melt 20 thousand kilograms of ice. Therefore it would take about 10^14 barrels of oil to melt the entire ice cap. Given that about 10^10 barrels of oil are produced each year, then we should be able to melt the ice caps by brute force in 10000 years.

A similar calculation using tons of coal (5*10^9 tons per year * 2 *10^10 joules per ton = 10^20 joules per year) gives (10^17 kj / 333.55 kj/kg = 10^14 kg per year can be melted). Since there are 10^19 kg of ice in antarctica, using coal we can melt it in 100000 years.

So yeah…

By my calculations, it would take 3.62 trillion gallons of black paint to cover the ice of Antarctica to a depth of 1mm.