If Earth Froze Overnight.



Overnight, our planet has gone from a pale blue dot to a glistening white snow globe. Stretches of Earth have become frozen wastelands that are completely inhospitable, and billions of people have been left unprepared for life below freezing. What changes would our planet undergo? What could we do to combat this global freezing? And would humanity be stuck on a giant, irreversible snowball? This is what if. And Here's what would happen if the Earth froze overnight. Earth has experienced several ice ages. During these periods, ice sheets pulse outward from the poles and then retract.


But three of these freezes between 580 and 750,000,000 years ago had such an extreme effect that the ice didn't retract for millions of years. These are known as snowball events. Temperatures reached minus 50 degrees Celsius, and the ice and snow reflected light into space. As more heat was reflected rather than absorbed by the planet, the temperature kept dropping. If you could have seen Earth from space back then, it would have looked like a glistening white ball. Eventually, the Earth thawed.

But if everything froze back again overnight, could you survive ?

earth froze

Okay, Let's start by looking at what new kind of planet you'd be stepping onto. Ice sheets one kilometer high would cover the Earth. Even in the tropics, the ice would be as thick as 10 meters. Most of the oceans would be covered in ice. Only near the equator or areas with lots of geothermal heat. Could liquid water still exist near the surface? Everything would be frigid. It would be so cold that most of life on Earth wouldn't be able to survive, especially humans. People living in cold climates would have warm clothing.


But this sudden freeze would be life or death for billions. Imagine living somewhere like Belize, Namibia, or parts of Australia where the temperature never drops below 15 degrees Celsius. If you lived in those areas, you'd be at risk of death from exposure to the cold. The same would be true in many other parts of the world, especially for the poor and homeless, or those with inadequate access to housing. All power and energy systems would be disrupted, and with no electricity, billions of people wouldn't have heating industries would grind to a halt.

Even agriculture or livestock cultivation would be nearly impossible. Humans would need to band together to conserve food, energy, and other supplies. You would be ready for living on a giant and snowball. If you were a scientist based on an Arctic research station at a Monson Scott station in Antarctica, the average temperature is minus 82.8 degrees Celsius. Scientists near the South Pole live in shelters built to withstand the cold and ice. Some even have gyms, greenhouses, a movie room in a sauna. Life in a shelter, though, would be very confined.

You would only go outside for specific tasks. To venture outdoors, you would need layers. A lot of layers. Scientists at these stations were nearly nine kilograms of clothing. It takes them about 10 minutes to get dressed. Any exposed skin could be frostbitten in less than five minutes. This deep freeze would also make the Earth in incredibly dry, as all precipitation would turn to snow or ice. That dry air could make you feel dizzy. You would need to constantly saw snow for water to drink. And the only way to get around would be with a snowmobile.

Snow  dunes

Or if you're looking for a little recreation, you could try to master kite surfing on snow dunes. But be careful. In Earth's lower latitudes, there would be howling winds. This would be another extreme element making life difficult. Researchers still don't know how the Earth thought from these previous snowball events. Unfortunately, if we wanted to reverse the freeze, we might have to change our thinking about greenhouse gases and global warming. We would need to pump the atmosphere with carbon dioxide and methane. That means releasing pure gas or burning even more fossil fuels.


On the other hand, we could use bombs to detonate volcanoes around the world. Volcanic activity is likely what warmed the planet in previous freezes. But these solutions to beg the question of what ecological crises we might create next. Like, if we extinguished the Sun? 

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