Q: If all of earth's glacial and polar ice melted, how much land would be left?
Well, it wouldn't be a bad idea to round up animals in pairs: The oceans could surge more than 250 feet (76 meters). Pretty much all of Florida would be gone, and every low-lying Gulf state would see its borders shrink significantly. Antarctica would contribute an estimated 230 feet (70 meters) to the rising sea level; Greenland, 21 feet (6.4 meters); and the rest of the Earth's ice, 2 feet (.6 meters). (Because the floating ice of the North Pole is already displacing water, its melting would not contribute to an overall increase in sea level.)
"Even a five-meter (16.4-foot) rise would take out most of the world's major cities: New York, Bombay, Amsterdam," says Roger Barry, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado (www.nsidc.org).
But hold off on purchasing that beachfront property in Atlanta. Even given what appears to be an acceleration in global warming due to greenhouse gases and a progressing interglacial period (the time between ice ages), any large-scale melt will be a long time coming. And even if warming continues at its present rate (no one is sure it will), Greenland wouldn't liquefy for a few thousand years; Antarctica's 5,245,738 square miles (13,586,399 square kilometers) of ice, because of elevation and where the continent is situated on the globe, may never completely melt. Make no mistake, however: A thaw has begun. For more information, visit www.nationalgeographic.com/earthpulse.
Q: I am blind and partially deaf, and I am very interested in adventure sports. What is doable for someone with my disabilities?
In 1997 Erik Weihenmayer, Mark Wellman, and Hugh Herr hiked 2.1 miles (3.4 kilometers) to the base of Fisher Towers outside of Moab, Utah. Weihenmayer, blind since the age of 13, carried Wellman, a paraplegic, on his back. Herr, a celebrated climber who'd lost his legs after surviving four frozen days on New Hampshire's Mount Washington, pushed ahead on prosthetic limbs, acting as a guide. When the trio reached the base of Ancient Art, a 400-foot (122-meter) monolith, they began to climb.
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Herr led the route; Wellman inched his way up the face using a special ascender. And Weihenmayer, who'd later complete the Seven Summits, just did what he does bestclimb. "We all have such different disabilities," says Weihenmayer. "It was great to see how we work together as a team."
Indeed, good teammates, the right gear, and careful preparation can bring almost any adventure into the realm of possibility. The first step, of course, is to choose your activity and destination; then do your researchAccess Outdoors (www.accessoutdoors.org) and Gimp on the Go (www.gimponthego.com) provide detailed outdoor-trip advice. Wilderness Inquiry (www.wildernessinquiry.org) and World T.E.A.M. Sports (www.worldteamsports.org) organize trips geared toward (but not limited to) people with disabilities. Finally, obey the cardinal rule of outdoor travel: Let people know where you'll be and when you'll return. "You don't have to be an elite athlete to get out and challenge yourself," Weihenmayer says. "You can be slow or fast or old or young or big or small; the key is to get out there and enjoy the adventure."