6
$\begingroup$

This question is about the same postapocalyptic future setting as this one, so you might want to refer to it, if you have any questions… about my question:

What species, if any, would survive this kind of apocalypse, and what would global environment be like?

Okay so this question is an outgrowth from Dronz's answers to my initial question. I am assuming they were correct, as they sound correct.

On a postapocalyptic future Earth, there has been an extremely destructive war between uber-shielded arcology megacities on the Earth's surface and rebelling space colonies that has left the Earth in a state somewhat (though not exactly) similar to the planet Venus today: partially molten crust, very dark, very hot, very wet and high-pressure atmosphere, choked with ash, dust, radioactivity, water vapor from partially boiled-away oceans, very little sunlight getting through, lots of lightning and high winds.

This war was not just a simple nuclear war but also involved lots of other types of super-weapons including antimatter, plasma, nanotech, neutron, microwave, directed-energy, psionic, and spacetime-destroying weapons, to name a few. I am still not sure if any microbes could survive, I know in past mass extinctions some have, and there are types that can survive radiation, or heat, or whatever, but I'm not sure, will any survive this? I'm assuming no, but I'm still open to the possibility of maybe.

So anyway, my question is, how long will the Earth stay in this kind of dark, hot, sunless radioactive soup? Is it possible that a lot of the atmosphere would escape into space after all this damage, like occurred on Mars in the distant past? Because my goal is to ultimately have the postapocalyptic world become a planet of lava plains and wasteland deserts, like the planet Arrakis from Dune, or Tatooine from Star Wars, or Athas from Dark Sun, or Southern California from Fallout, or the Sahara Desert from real life. So, how, in the most realistic and scientifically accurate way possible, do I explain it going from the initial post-war state of radioactive, dark, hot, and wet, to the later mega-desert of still radioactive, but now sun-baked, (still) hot, and (now) dry?

$\endgroup$
4
$\begingroup$

Josh - burn the world and let out some sulphur and you'll have your effect here.

Venus is a good example of run away warming...for the most case the 'global warming' term here is a direct relation towards our CO2 emissions, but sulphur and other gasses are extremely more effective at causing run away warming effects. And yes, it can last for extremely long periods...but some concerns to address

  • Due to the amount of water on earth, it is quite difficult to get extreme heat changes going. For every gram of water that is increased by 1 degree, you could raise the temperature of the same mass of air by 15 degrees or more. Removing waer (and ice) from the globe as part of your war would be quite useful in getting your intended result here.

  • Microbes can resist almost anything (atleast you will be able to fiund a few strains that have resistances to anything you can think of). Self DNA repairing Microbes exist that can readily resist radiation for example.

  • Earth plate tectonics do not readily make for a good setup with 'lava plains'...however a simple background of a large energy device could cause the Yellowstone super volcano to create a north american sized lava plain.

To get the desert (and warm) effect, go for 2 large events. 1. release every bit of carbon on the surface into the air as CO2. Burn every forest, cause underground oil reserves to burn, and bring the CO2 levels of this planet back up to where it was early in the earths formation. 2. Add sulphur to the equation. 'Sour' gas is gas with a high sulphur content, having gas and oil reserves burn is one way of doing this.

(an unintended effect here is the air pressure on the planet should increase with all this weight of new airborne matter...makes the planet that much more inhospitable. and sulphur stinks, your wasteland would suck to breathe).`

The effects of above should be - without plant life, erosion will run away. soil will 'flatten' as it rapidly erodes and shift towards dust and sand. The Sahara is expanding already, this should aplify the expansion. - Between sulphur and high amounts of carbon, you should have the necessary ingredients to initiate extreme warming without the unintended nuclear winter effect.

Still struggling to do something with all the earths water for you...without resorting to some form of weapon that removed it all, I'm not quite sure. - An explosion large enough to evaporate and eject water into space - An underground event that causes the majority of earths water to drain into the underground. This would be interesting as the water would still have a heat insulating effect, but not as much at the surface.

Adding:

Lets give this blowing the water off Earth scenario a go. The process I'm relying on here is Thermolysis...basically the degradation of molecules due to heat. At around 2000 degrees Celcius, water begins separating into it's base components at about a ratio of 3:100. At around 3000 degrees, this becomes closer to 50/50. Ok, the energy I'm talking here to achieve these temperatures is kinda silly, but plutonium and iridium work as catalysts in this reaction, bringing down the 3% line to around 1300 degrees...Pretty theoriectical and estimated, but 2000 degrees with a iridium and platinum catalyst should reduce 50% of water to hydrogen and oxygen to be released out into space (at that temps, I'd assume there is enough momentum to break free of earths gravity?).

Ya, that seems a bit far fetched, and the temperatures involved would likely ignite close to anything nearby, maybe even the atmosphere. Let me see what else I can come up with. Heh, is a blackhole generated at the bottom of the ocean that collpases the water into it center doable?

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Microbes are still being genetically sequenced and we are not quite at the point (atleast not that I am aware of) that we know of all of various Microbes abilities. That said, there are strains that can resist radiation others that can live in space, and others that are capable of thriving on underwater volcanic vents. It's possible the things can travel on Asteroids and comets, survive impact, and ultimately seed a planet with life. Let me think of the air/water escape...heh, can I be creative with weapons? $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Oct 29 '14 at 16:50
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ makes me wonder if they'll find microbes in the thermosphere...though I guess when the microbes particles being participating in fusion, there isn't much chance of it's survival is there? $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Oct 29 '14 at 19:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @ Twelfth Not in those areas directly hit, no. But like I said, not every area was directly hit, so I feel like it's kind of maybe a 50/50 chance. Like just to give a visual reference, here is kinda what I picture North America looking like, (thick atmosphere not shown for illustrative purposes) not exactly but sort of, only without the green parts: link and the whole Western Hemisphere (only with less ocean, like more of the continental shelf showing) link . $\endgroup$ – Josh Zmijewski Oct 29 '14 at 20:26
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Gave a try, but the 'blow it off the earth' scenario isn't that possible from what I see...energy required to do this would cause world wide destruction pretty quickly. $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Oct 30 '14 at 16:55
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Yeah, it's cool. I appreciate you looking into it so in-depth, you are awesome! And yeah that's all doable. There are definitely some areas heated to those temperatures, and above… the surface of the sun is, what? 5000 °C? And some of my weapons go significantly hotter than that. But it's cool anyway. Yeah some are like, not black holes exactly, but sorta like wormholes that suck up a bunch of water and air and then conveniently close up before pulling the whole planet in. $\endgroup$ – Josh Zmijewski Oct 31 '14 at 17:26
1
$\begingroup$

Microbes could survive inside the shielded areas and underground and then re-colonize the outside even if none survived on the surface. It will take longer for larger lifeforms to emerge but some could well have survived, and again if not they will re-seed from the shielded areas.

Radiation and heat will naturally return to normal over time. Wait a few centuries and everything will be fine on that measure.

The reason for the humidity is that you evaporated all the oceans, so where did all that water go? You need to somehow get rid of all that water from the environment.

The options really are:

  • Having the oceans reform
  • Locking the water away underground
  • Blowing the water into space
  • Converting the water into something else

Most of these are hard to explain though.

Possibly the simplest two options would be to say either that the weapon that evaporated the oceans also threw most of the water into space or that oceans did reform afterwards but the continents had reformed with a different layout. A single large continent would have vast desert areas.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah. I want to get a bunch of my oceans and atmosphere blown out into space/blown away by the solar wind, but is it realistic to get that from this? By the same token, does it make sense to be able to get the continents reformed different like that? I think it might, and that's a really creative solution I hadn't thought of, but what's my science behind that? I know it's strange, but I want to keep those parts of my world that do make scientific sense as close to hard science as possible! $\endgroup$ – Josh Zmijewski Oct 28 '14 at 15:18
  • $\begingroup$ Put it this way: (and maybe I'll have to make this my next question) in physics terms, what kinds of properties would a hypothetical type of weapon need to have to push lots of matter out into space? Like would antimatter bombs do it? I doubt atomics would. Gravitic weapons maybe? $\endgroup$ – Josh Zmijewski Oct 28 '14 at 15:35
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The sort of weapons you are describing could easily shatter the crust of the planet. New continents would rise while others would sink. In those situations you could easily justify pretty much anything in terms of forming new continents. Blowing all the water into space while still having some planet left would be very hard though. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Oct 28 '14 at 16:41
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Hmmm… well I don't need to get all the water blown out into space, just maybe 20 or 30 percent of it… would that make any difference? I guess as an alternative, just making big new continents with large, dry interiors is my best pathway to getting the desert world I'm after. Or just new mountain ranges near the coasts to keep the rain from getting inland. I don't want to make them too different though… I still want it to be recognizable as some iteration of Earth, albeit a vastly, vastly altered one. $\endgroup$ – Josh Zmijewski Oct 28 '14 at 17:37
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I like the mountains idea here. Something else to consider is that if many of the plant species have gone extinct, even areas that receive a fair amount of rainfall may look like a dessert, due to a lack of plant life. This would increase the effect of erosion (already high due to the hypercanes), causing massive soil loss and leading to a very barren ground, in which it could be difficult for any remaining plant life to become established. $\endgroup$ – Caleb Hines Oct 28 '14 at 17:53
1
$\begingroup$

I'm adding this as a second answer, because it's significantly different in scope. While my first answer was targeted towards some possible climatic impacts that would result, this answer will be directed towards the desired effect.

The desired effect is Desertification, i.e. the process by which land is made inhospitable (esp. to plant life, or to agriculture). This does not necessarily require a low rainfall rate to accomplish. Wikipedia identifies the primary cause of desertification to be the removal of plant life, which can be caused by many factors. For example, aside from arid climates, it could be caused by overgrazing, or deforestation. In your case, I believe the cause would be devastating weapons damage, radiation fallout, lack of sunlight due to aerosol particles, etc...

The loss of vegetation makes the soil incredibly vulnerable to erosion (especially in light of the potential Hypercanes I mentioned in my previous answer) which causes the "good" (nutrient-rich) soil to be lost, exposing poor soil, or even barren rock. This can even cause a spiral effect, in that it then leads to fewer plants, more erosion, poorer conditions, and thus even fewer plants.

The region may still receive a fair amount of rainfall, but without a good soil and vegetation to trap it, it would just run off without really providing any benefit.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Meaning that with all plant life on the planet dead, (except in shielded zones) this will lead to my desert anyway, even without recourse to new continents or such. Even if the rain falls back down, it will just run off to reform the seas. The lands will remain the barren, plantless wastelands of my imaginings? $\endgroup$ – Josh Zmijewski Oct 28 '14 at 18:42
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Possibly. Depends on if there are any plants around. Very hardy plants will likely survive, but there'd probably be fierce competition. The wetter areas might be more muddy rather than sandy. $\endgroup$ – Caleb Hines Oct 28 '14 at 19:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There is a known process for this as plants reclaim "lost" areas, take a look at how sand dunes in areas where the sea is reclaiming gradually get taken over by different generations of plants and turned into soil. It would take time but it would happen. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Oct 29 '14 at 9:22
  • $\begingroup$ Okay, this is fine. No plants will survive outside the shielded areas, but yes, eventually they will return and my Earth will be green again, but that will take thousands of years at least. True, the wetter or low-lying coastal areas will be more muddy, but the higher interior will be desert. $\endgroup$ – Josh Zmijewski Oct 29 '14 at 13:14
1
$\begingroup$

With regards to the existence of life on your new earth I agree with the consensus that no conventional microbes would be capable of surviving. However I think it is possible that new lifeforms could arise. Specifically you describe the use of nanobot weapons during the apocalypse. If any of these bots are capable of surviving the environment, and if they are capable of self-replication, then they could begin an entirely new branch of life. The harsh radiation could cause mutations in the programs of the bots and enable them to evolve in your new wasteland. Potentially you could see a thriving ecosystem of nanobot organisms feeding off the various forms of radiation, chemical energy, or each other.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Good points, Mike! I was already planning to include “nanobominations” as one of the common types of monsters in my world, I'm glad you were thinking along the same lines. :D $\endgroup$ – Josh Zmijewski Oct 31 '14 at 17:39
0
$\begingroup$

With such a warm ocean, and humid atmosphere, extreme weather patterns known as Hypercanes are likely to form. Between the intense amounts of precipitation and winds, there will be a large amount of erosion.

Despite the planet's overall warmth, the dust in the atmosphere blocking the sunlight might eventually lead to a cooling effect known as a Nuclear Winter. It's debated whether this type of effect would last for days, months, or years.

It's actually possible that the combination of warm oceans and humid atmosphere (and thus high precipitation rates), coupled with cooling global temperatures from the dust clouds could lead to a build up of ice in the polar regions, and trigger an Ice Age.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ That's cool and all, and I like the hypercanes part, I'm definitely going to throw some of those in there, but the Ice Age thing is exactly the opposite direction from where I'm trying to get to. :( Unless the water being locked up in the ice caps could somehow lead to desertification overall and eventually get me to my hot, Sahara-like planet? $\endgroup$ – Josh Zmijewski Oct 28 '14 at 15:23
  • $\begingroup$ Technically speaking, deserts are dry, not necessarily hot: Antarctica is a desert. I think once the planet cools, you could envision that a cooler atmosphere would hold less precipitation, and thus lead to a dryer overall climate. The main problem is that, with as much water as Earth has (unless you can get rid of the water somehow), a hot climate is going to lead to evaporation and eventually precipitation. $\endgroup$ – Caleb Hines Oct 28 '14 at 16:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Mmmh, true. That's why I specified a Sahara-type desert in particular, not just any old desert. But your point is quite valid. Tim B's ideas seem my best option to get my setting into the state I want to get it into and have it make some scientific sense. $\endgroup$ – Josh Zmijewski Oct 28 '14 at 17:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.