As you may have heard, a giant iceberg just broke off the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica. It has been described as the size of Delaware (helpful only to that state’s 600 residents) or as having a volume twice that of Lake Erie (helpful only to LeBron James).
Climate Central put its volume in scale relative to New York, San Francisco and Mount Rainier in Washington, which gives a bit more of a sense of how much ice we’re talking about.
— Brian L Kahn (@blkahn) July 12, 2017
But it’s still a bit hard to fathom the scale of the thing. So we decided to put it in another context: How long would it take to drink it?
I mean, we all know about how long it takes to drink a glass of water, right? So if I sat down and had some superhuman force (LeBron James) pour me out glass after glass of runaway-iceberg water, how long would I be sitting there?
Let’s start with the math. So the iceberg weighs about 1.12 trillion U.S. tons, according to the British Antarctic Survey. That’s of ice, of course. When we convert that to the weight of the water, it totals … 1.12 trillion tons. Why? Because it’s still the same amount of water, just in a different form. The ice has more volume, but not more weight.
I’m going to assume we’re talking about 8-ounce glasses of water here, just for the sake of our experiment. An ounce of water weighs 29.57 grams, so an 8-ounce glass of water weighs 236.6 grams (excluding the weight of the glass). That means that our 1.12 trillion tons of ice could mete out about 4.3 quadrillion glasses of water.
How much is that? If LeBron poured out a glass for everyone on Earth (including himself) and we all drank our glasses of water and had them refilled in 30 seconds, it would take 294,826 minutes for us to finish the iceberg. If we started it at midnight Thursday, we’d finish a little before 6 p.m. next Feb. 2.
The monotony of the movie “Groundhog Day” would certainly hold new resonance for all of us, except that we’d be dead from water intoxication before this weekend.
Anyway, the Feb. 2 finish line is only if everybody is drinking two glasses a minute, all 7.5 billion of us. What I wanted to know was, what if it were just me?
To answer that, I made this little tool. Drink water as slowly or quickly as you wish by clicking the button and it will tell you when you can expect to be done drinking the iceberg.
The point is, it’s a lot of water.