North Sea megaengineering
February 12, 2020 2:22 PM   Subscribe

The North Sea, between Great Britain, continental Europe and Scandinavia, has been the focus of several megaengineering ideas, most recently a Dutch proposal to enclose it with two massive dams, one running from Scotland via the Shetland Islands to Norway, and the other from Cornwall to Brittany. The so-called North European Enclosure Dam is estimated to cost between 250 and 500 billion Euros—or merely 0.1% of the GDP of the areas bordering the enclosed regions, which would in turn be protected from rising sea levels due to climate change. The Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, which put forward the proposal, stresses that it would be technically feasible, as all sea depths along the routes are relatively shallow, though mentions that the eventual consequences of damming the North Sea would be it turning into a freshwater lake, disrupting marine ecosystems. The idea is intended not so much as an immediate plan for action as a plausible illustration of the likely costs of mitigation if climate change is not reined in.

A more modest (except perhaps in the Swiftian sense) proposal that is somewhat closer to realisation is a plan by Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark to build an artificial island on Dogger Bank to provide renewable energy to northern Europe.
posted by acb (98 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
And thus shall Doggerland rise once more above the waves!

(Srsly, as about 50% of the Netherlands is land reclaimed from the North Sea, I should like to note that this proposal is not without precedent: it's just more of the same, on a much larger scale.)
posted by cstross at 2:25 PM on February 12 [20 favorites]


If they do build the dams, I hope they make enough use of the necessary infrastructure to run viaducts on top of them. A Edinburgh-Lerwick-Bergen high-speed rail link would be useful for both freight and passenger traffic in the post-cheap-flight age (to say nothing of potential geopolitical factors). Though with the stormy waters, the line might have to be enclosed in an above-ground tunnel protecting it from strong winds and waves.
posted by acb at 2:33 PM on February 12 [11 favorites]


Maybe there was a reason Doggerland got buried beneath the cold, purifyng waters. Maybe there are, like, cyclopean ruins down there.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 2:34 PM on February 12 [32 favorites]


Also, in terms of megaengineering projects to mitigate rising sea levels, didn't someone mention a while ago building canals from the oceans to deserts which are below sea level, diverting surplus water and irrigating arid areas? (I think the Sahara was mentioned.)
posted by acb at 2:36 PM on February 12


Yup that’s the Sahara Sea

Funny how it’s easier to imagine fantastical feats of engineering and international cooperation on spending trillions of dollars than to imagine divesting from fossil fuels and halting (let alone ameliorating) anthropogenic climate change.
posted by SaltySalticid at 2:42 PM on February 12 [74 favorites]


This is fascinating. There was a theory that as the glaciers melt some of Norway and Sweden will actually rise. Like taking your thumb off a sponge.
posted by Everyone Expects The Spanish Influenza at 2:43 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


If it ain't Dutch, it ain't much.
posted by humboldt32 at 2:43 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


I'm curious why they don't suggest damming the Strait of Dover instead? It's <35km.
posted by L0 at 2:44 PM on February 12


I'm dutch, so I'm totally biased, but i really like these ideas. Let's conquer the waves!!
posted by Pendragon at 2:45 PM on February 12 [6 favorites]


Now hear me out, what if we were to dam all of the oceans? Think of how much land we could reclaim!
posted by maxwelton at 2:57 PM on February 12 [17 favorites]


For some reason, my brain keeps filing this idea in the “What could go wrong?” shelves.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:07 PM on February 12 [12 favorites]


Srsly, as about 50% of the Netherlands is land reclaimed from the North Sea, I should like to note that this proposal is not without precedent

This type of project is clearly technically feasible. But their estimated ~$250-500B cost is easily 1.5 to 2 orders of magnitude lower than the real cost would surely be.

However, even at the $5-15T order of magnitude range, the ROI just might still be there.
posted by tclark at 3:09 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


"Maybe there was a reason Doggerland got buried beneath the cold, purifyng waters. Maybe there are, like, cyclopean ruins voyeurs down there"

FTFY.
posted by CynicalKnight at 3:14 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


L0, this does include something across the English channel as well as across the North Sea, Scotland to Norway. The Dutch do a ton of this work and I trust their cost estimate, as least within and order of magnitude. You build the dikes out of materials dredged from the seafloor. Once you have enough dredging ships built, it is like an assembly line process. I would hate to think about how much fuel all those ships would burn.
posted by CostcoCultist at 3:15 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


On the bright side, the marine ecosystems involved are only five- to six-thousand years old, which wouldn't be the worst to interrupt.
posted by constantinescharity at 3:16 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


This is the sort of idea Boris Johnson would come up with. Nobody tell him, for god's sake.
posted by Grangousier at 3:16 PM on February 12 [8 favorites]


I don't understand why they don't propose damning the Baltic Sea right at Denmark. Seems like a much smaller dam to build for mostly the same benefits. And the same problem really, the eventual death of the Baltic Sea as it gets fresh-water-er-.
posted by GuyZero at 3:21 PM on February 12


Dutch expertise is being used to flesh out the proposal of a dike along the Texas coast, in the Galveston area, with an enormous swinging gate to close the mouth of Galveston Bay. This proposal, named the "Ike Dike", is intended to protect people and property from major hurricanes. It would cost a minimum of $26 Billion, paid for by some set of tax payers (Galveston, Texas, US?). The inevitable sea level rise means that the whole thing would probably be obsolete not long after it is completed. Which is a shame because if the refineries and chemical plants inland from Galveston are ever inundated by a major hurricane the resulting mess will be among the worst environmental catastrophies in our history.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 3:21 PM on February 12 [6 favorites]


Use it for a new Azolla Event.
posted by Mister Cheese at 3:21 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


I can't not read "massive dams" as "massive clams". I don't have anything else to contribute to the discussion.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:22 PM on February 12 [23 favorites]


I don't understand why they don't propose damning the Baltic Sea right at Denmark.

Presumably because it would do nothing to protect western Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, eastern Britain, northern France or a lot of other areas. And because the Dutch are drawing this plan up.
posted by acb at 3:24 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


Dammit. Now you've got me wondering what effect macro-scale climate mitigation engineering works would have on CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN.
posted by bonehead at 3:36 PM on February 12 [13 favorites]


That is a big dam project.
posted by BeeDo at 3:40 PM on February 12 [5 favorites]


If anyone can do a project of this magnitude it’s the Dutch. They’ve been preparing for centuries for something like this. Too bad it’s necessary, though.
posted by tommasz at 3:40 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


A motorway/railway line from Cornwall to Brittany would add some convenience to my life, though probably geopolitics will make it moot by the time this could be built.
posted by biffa at 4:00 PM on February 12


I don’t know, but why don’t we, you know, reign in climate change instead? Am I crazy here?
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:11 PM on February 12 [12 favorites]


This is the sort of idea Boris Johnson would come up with. Nobody tell him, for god's sake.

If he finds out, just tell him foreigners could walk into England over this thing and he won't have a bar of it.
posted by flabdablet at 4:21 PM on February 12 [10 favorites]


I don’t know, but why don’t we, you know, reign in climate change instead? Am I crazy here?

I suppose they are reasoning that this is not within their power alone. With the U.S controlled by a faction that actively maintains that the entire crisis is a "hoax", I don't really blame them for turning their attention to mitigating the damage to their part of the world.
posted by thelonius at 4:30 PM on February 12 [21 favorites]


If one were to do this, one might even start on reclaiming that land. I mean, were I dutch, that would be the first thing I'd think of.
posted by bonehead at 4:34 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


I'm curious why they don't suggest damming the Strait of Dover instead? It's <35km.

I don't know but my guess that the further west they put it the more of the south English and west French coast they can save from inundation. They also need to put it somewhere where the coastline is pretty steep or else the rising seas will just go around the ends of dam unless they extend it inland.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 4:43 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Why not just head for high ground? Oh wait ... Netherlands.
posted by jim in austin at 4:56 PM on February 12


I like the idea of a Doggo Bank, you could deposit doggo feelings when you are flush, then withdraw them when....

Oh. Never mind.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:05 PM on February 12 [6 favorites]


this proposal is not without precedent

When all you have is a voorhamer, everything looks like a spijker.
posted by Freelance Demiurge at 5:06 PM on February 12 [23 favorites]


There was a theory that as the glaciers melt some of Norway and Sweden will actually rise.

Finland rose from the sea
but efforts are being made to sink it back in.
posted by mattiv at 5:10 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Doggo Bank

A Dogger Bank is a large Puppo Bank.
posted by tclark at 5:22 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


Even if the world stopped emitting CO2 tomorrow, decades of warming and sea level rise will occur. So adaptation is going to be part of the response to climate change, regardless of efforts to ameliorate it.

Whether or not to implement this concept is rightfully a part of the discussion about adaptation. It’s an awful lot of money that might be better spent in other ways, in my view.
posted by haiku warrior at 5:42 PM on February 12 [5 favorites]


Can we build Atlantropa while we're at it?

I mean, minus all the creepy racial politics around it...
posted by Hatashran at 5:43 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


This sort of project is the tip of the melting iceberg. I wish it was a fictional universe developing, but it's going to be interesting to see what sort of previously incredibly projects start to pick up steam. Many places will see no alternative. An interesting quality of climate change is that it both creates the circumstances where wars are likely to break out but also inspires the sort of international cooperation that helps prevents them.
posted by feloniousmonk at 5:47 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


Funny how it’s easier to imagine fantastical feats of engineering and international cooperation on spending trillions of dollars than to imagine divesting from fossil fuels and halting (let alone ameliorating) anthropogenic climate change.

See also: terraforming Mars.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:19 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


Can we build Atlantropa while we're at it?

didn't someone mention a while ago building canals from the oceans to deserts

A related previously for all your wildly unrealistic mega engineering goodness.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 6:29 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


That they are spitballing this now means that it is too late. This seems like a, "OK, we're screwed, what do we do now that we've ignored this problem for too long?" kind of an idea...
posted by Chuffy at 6:48 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


Even if the world stopped emitting CO2 tomorrow, decades of warming and sea level rise will occur.

Not necessarily. Trees are the answer. Reforestation and afforestation alone have incredible power to mitigate climate change, including recent past debt/momentum.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:09 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


I remember a Mefi post about a cargo ship full of Lindane, down in the channel off of Britain. That stuff was in sufficient quantity to kill off the entire North Sea. I wouldn't undertake a project like this without fixing that mess. I wouldn't vote for this, anyway. What about the salmon, the cod, the crab, all the sea creatures?
posted by Oyéah at 7:18 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


Dutch expertise is being used to flesh out the proposal of a dike along the Texas coast, in the Galveston area, with an enormous swinging gate to close the mouth of Galveston Bay. This proposal, named the "Ike Dike", is intended to protect people and property from major hurricanes. It would cost a minimum of $26 Billion, paid for by some set of tax payers (Galveston, Texas, US?). The inevitable sea level rise means that the whole thing would probably be obsolete not long after it is completed. Which is a shame because if the refineries and chemical plants inland from Galveston are ever inundated by a major hurricane the resulting mess will be among the worst environmental catastrophies in our history.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 3:21 PM on February 12 [1 favorite +] [!]
quote

The Dutch are highly skilled at bilking Americans out of consultant fees. The Ike Dike is the brainchild of the University of Mississippi, who quote the Dutch in order to get some of that Euro prestige. They cut Rice out of the project completely, when the geologists at Rice pointed out that the big stupid gate on the ocean was going to force scouring in San Luis Pass.

The whole thing is classic Army Corps grift. The Army Corps told Bolivar Island that they were getting a levee in front of their homes, but that couldn't make cost benefit, so they put the ike dike behind their homes, increasing their flood risk, and lied to them about it.

Also, the Houston Ship Channel is the environmental disaster. Those facilities should armor themselves, a wall on the ocean won t protect the Ship Channel---surge and slosh from the mighty Galveston Bay is enough to destroy Ship Channel facilities, even if you build a wall on the ocean.

Also, like Harvey proved that the ocean floods us from the sky now, so a wall is irrelevant, didn t ITC prove that you don t even need a rainstorm for the Ship Channel to wreak havoc? the Ship Channel is the havoc, the facilities are the terrorist threat.

The only thing that will prevent a Ship Channel disaster is the companies re engineering their facilities to armor themselves. Everything else is grift.
posted by eustatic at 7:52 PM on February 12 [10 favorites]


The best outcome of this is if they go through with it and they learn what most landlocked places at that latitude feel like in the Winter.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:55 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


Dry dreams of civil engineers.
posted by jamjam at 7:56 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


Galveston, Texas, US?

Also, is there a question? This is the USA baby, Texas might have to promise 25% cost share, but they'll get Congress to drop it once another hurricane hits. Galveston will be forced to pay operations and maintenance. So there won t be maintenance, and Galveston will have to continually beg Austin to cover the costs of opening and closing the gates.

All of this will reset when the inevitable oil tanker crashes into the gate, causing another epic environmental disaster.
posted by eustatic at 8:10 PM on February 12 [6 favorites]


Interesting that an article about a dam in the North Sea turns out to be about Texas after all.
posted by tavegyl at 8:24 PM on February 12 [27 favorites]


It's like that alt.history where the fascists won WWII and Mussolini dams the Straits of Gibraltar and drains the Mediterranean -- what was that in, The Man in the High Castle?
posted by Rash at 8:42 PM on February 12


You're gonna need more little Dutch boys.
posted by JackFlash at 8:47 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


This is fascinating. There was a theory that as the glaciers melt some of Norway and Sweden will actually rise. Like taking your thumb off a sponge.

Canada has been rising ever since the ice retreated in the last ice age.

I would hate to think about how much fuel all those ships would burn.

No reason they couldn't be powered by grid electricity via a tether or even batteries. We've been doing it with land based earth excavating machines for a century. One would imagine the dyke would feature windmills (like, why wouldn't you have windmills at least close if not actually on the dam) so electric ships might be cheaper than ones running on dead dinos.
posted by Mitheral at 9:04 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


So instead of the population of the Baltic/North Sea becoming refugees because their countries flooded, they become refugees because we closed down the busiest shipping route in the world and wrecked their economies?
posted by Segundus at 9:11 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


What about the salmon, the cod, the crab, all the sea creatures?

cyclopean fish ladders?
posted by 20 year lurk at 9:21 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


I was in elementary school in the '70s and during self guided reading you'd grab these one page essays . There was a mini-genre of man triumphs over nature technology stories like cloud seeding or making Australian desert bloom, but also a plan to dam the Mediterranean to free up more cropland.

This kind of thought was out of style by then, but of course our reading material was older. In the '50s goals like this (if not the actual plans) were taken seriously. They also fueled SF writers.

I completely forgot these things existed until I read Oliver Morton's The Planet Remade a few years ago, which covers the history of geoengineering and the contentious potential application to global warming, which opened with some of this stuff. All the wacky approaches came back to me. (It's a good book on its own merits.)
posted by mark k at 9:39 PM on February 12 [8 favorites]


YES we should definitely do this and then stock the area with huge enormous genetically engineered ravenous sea dwelling dinosaurs, for tourism purposes of course! certainly not for me to feed my enemies to. no. what a ridiculous thing to say. how dare you make such an accusation.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:51 PM on February 12 [6 favorites]


Over course, we should be working to avoid climate change. Full stop,
However I do think this is a nice thought experiment and a feasible real project. Note that there would be locks for ships, as there is in the Afsluitdijk built nearly 100 years ago.
On the energy issues I love the inclusion of windmills, you could probably do something cool with titdal hydro power while you are at it.

I don't know much about Houston- my experience with Dutch engineers has been great on some beach sand replenishment projects. Those guys seem to really know what they are doing. However, the Army Corps of Engineers and the way the projects get funded is a big political mess.
Florida probably has the craziest sand politics.
posted by CostcoCultist at 9:56 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


That is a big dam project.

And less boring than the Chunnel.

If he finds out, just tell him foreigners could walk into England over this thing and he won't have a bar of it.

Walk? It's the Netherlands; you'd have Bikes on Dykes.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:41 PM on February 12 [16 favorites]


This is a zero sum game though. The increased water that doesn't go into the North Sea has to go somewhere else!

This is actually only a little bit true: The way the numbers work out, for every 40' of water the North Sea loses, the rest of the ocean rises by 1". If you drained the North Sea entirely, you'd raise the rest of the world's sea level by around 7.5". Also doing that would probably cost even more, though I guess you wouldn't need to build any locks at least!
posted by aubilenon at 11:06 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


To what extent would this affect tides in the whole region?

Segundus there'll have to be a fantastic system of locks - and some way that a certain navy could get it's subs out without anyone noticing!
posted by unearthed at 11:55 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


I spend far too many hours looking at a sea level app the geological institute here has, and actually this weeks there are huge floods in the north-west of Denmark. Living in a flat country during global warming is not hyggelig.
But I think it is a terrible idea. Living in a huge fresh-water lake is not appealing, and all of these quick-fix solutions distract from the real issue. But that is what the article says, too.
posted by mumimor at 12:45 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


In my Twitter timeline this was mostly shared by people disappointed it wasn't butch lesbians on motorcycles doing the protecting.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:36 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


More seriously, this is a big fucking stupid fucking idea and as the person quaoted in the Grauniad article said, mostly there just to stir people to action.

If you look at the ecological impact the Dutch Deltaworks had, where instead of raising and improving the existing dykes, we decided it was cheaper and easier just to close off several sea arms, you know this would be a disaster.

With the Deltaworks, what used to be thriving salt water ecosytems turned into unhabitable hell holes. We like to brag about the Oosterscheldestormvloedkering now as a country, but without some very stubborn Yerseke fishers waging a decade long campaign against the closure we would've lost one of the richest ecosystems not just in the Netherlands, but in western Europe.

Now imagine doing that for the North Sea.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:43 AM on February 13 [13 favorites]


Morning-after thoughts: with climate change underway, a lot of curently viable farmland in southern and central European latitudes will become arid/desertified. Meanwhile Doggerland is believed to have been fertile lowlands prior to its inundation—the British isles were chilly subarctic uplands, heavily glaciated in the north. And today the Netherlands are one of the most productive agricultural regions on the planet per hectare under cultivation (of which there are not enough).

I could speculate that, drained and suitably desalinated over the next century or two, Doggerland could be a huge lifeline for keeping humans fed during the long hot peak of the anthropocene; a low-lying, fertile agricultural zone with the land area of Germany and a warm temperate climate. (Think in terms of California's central valley, only much, much, bigger.)

Seen in this perspective and amortized over the historical time scale, a €1Tn price tag would actually be the bargain of the milennium. After all, there aren't many other equivalent-sized productive zones that can be protected against inundation, much less reclaimed: one of the scary facts about rising global temperatures is that in addition to random crop collapses becoming frequent, lots of currently-productive agricultural land is going to become uninhabitable (and the thawing arctic soils will take a lot longer to become productive than the time we've got).
posted by cstross at 1:52 AM on February 13 [8 favorites]


In the interim, we could go breatharian, subsisting purely on air, which scientists in Finland are working on making an actual thing.
posted by acb at 2:14 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


More seriously, this is a big fucking stupid fucking idea and as the person quaoted in the Grauniad article said, mostly there just to stir people to action.

It's a stupid idea in the present conditions. Whether it would be more stupid than declaring that humanity shat its bed and should, by rights, go extinct and give the cockroaches a chance to prove themselves as the dominant species, is a matter of perspective. From a human-chauvinist perspective, wrecking the rest of the environment to allow the wretched remnants of humanity a thin chance for survival would be better than nothing.
posted by acb at 2:26 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Morning-after thoughts: with climate change underway, a lot of curently viable farmland in southern and central European latitudes will become arid/desertified.

There are established methods of fighting desertification, that are being practiced in Africa and Australia. I've mentioned before that I have seen it happen on my own land. No need for irreversible mega-projects that will disrupt marine life in the North Sea forever.
posted by mumimor at 2:27 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]


From a human-chauvinist perspective, wrecking the rest of the environment to allow the wretched remnants of humanity a thin chance for survival would be better than nothing.

A megaproject like this won't be possible under those circumstances and are unnecessary now, except for letting us flee into technofetishism rather than doing what needs to be really done to mitigate climate change.

It's a rearguard action, not intended to do anything but take up mental space.


There are established methods of fighting desertification, that are being practiced in Africa

The Great Green Wall stretching across the Sahel, from East to West Africa is the greatest 21st century human endaveour most people don't know about.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:02 AM on February 13 [12 favorites]


Wouldn’t it be cheaper and easier to move the Netherlands onto giant barges? A rising tide lifts all provinces, and they could finally be united with the Caribbean parts of the state....
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:23 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


I could speculate that, drained and suitably desalinated over the next century or two, Doggerland could be a huge lifeline for keeping humans fed during the long hot peak of the anthropocene

Unfortunately, the climate change that makes new farmland desirable will be accompanied by rising sea levels and increased storm activity, each of which will threaten that reclaimed sea bottom. According to Wikipedia, the world's tallest embankment dam (i.e., not a horizontal arch made of concrete) is the Nurek Dam in Tajikistan. It's 300m high, and 700m long. The article above says the maximum depth of the North Sea between Scotland and Norway is 321m, so it sounds doable ... except it would need to be vastly longer. Even if the average depth of the North Sea is only around 127m, the embankment would be nearly 500km in length and would need to be high enough to resist overtopping even by the storm surges that can be expected to be caused by global warming.

I can't even guess how powerful those surges might be. Twenty meters? Plus giant waves? The horizontal pressure on the upstream side (i.e., the wet side) of a dam varies as the square of its depth IIUC. And if those waves start flowing over, they'll permeate the embankment and you'll get all sorts of things like upthrust and liquefaction and goodness knows what. The prospect of an inundation is horrific: the surge of water from a catastrophic failure would crush everything in its path and scour the land clean. There would be few if any survivors.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:27 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]


A Dogger Bank is a large Puppo Bank.

And a Dogging Bank is something else entirely.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 3:42 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


Everybody knows that “doggers” is just how British people say “doggos”; as in “I do like to go to the park in the evening to meet some nice doggers; they're all such good boys”.
posted by acb at 4:30 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


More seriously, this is a big fucking stupid fucking idea and as the person quaoted in the Grauniad article said, mostly there just to stir people to action

And if we've learnt anything from the past few years, it's that offering stupid extreme options that no-one would ever pick always works out really well.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:50 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


If it ain't Dutch, it ain't much.

If anyone can do a project of this magnitude it’s the Dutch.

Yeah, but that oven was a disaster.
posted by waving at 5:05 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Interesting that an article about a dam in the North Sea turns out to be about Texas after all.
posted by tavegyl at 8:24 PM on February 12 [15 favorites +] [!]


This is funny, but half the reason to do these engineering exercises is to advertise and sell services to the colonies, i.e. Texas.
posted by eustatic at 5:15 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


I should like to note that this proposal is not without precedent: it's just more of the same, on a much larger scale.

This makes me think of the beach swimming pools they have in the former resort towns on the British seaside like Margate.
posted by srboisvert at 5:37 AM on February 13


I can't even guess how powerful those surges might be. Twenty meters? Plus giant waves? The horizontal pressure on the upstream side (i.e., the wet side) of a dam varies as the square of its depth IIUC. And if those waves start flowing over, they'll permeate the embankment and you'll get all sorts of things like upthrust and liquefaction and goodness knows what. The prospect of an inundation is horrific: the surge of water from a catastrophic failure would crush everything in its path and scour the land clean. There would be few if any survivors.

Presumably if you're going to build a thousand-kilometre dam across the ocean, adding a kilometre or two of solid earth behind it to reinforce it won't be too great a problem. (Assuming that you're draining the area and farming Doggerland, rather than just creating a big freshwater lake.)
posted by acb at 5:45 AM on February 13


The Dutch are highly skilled at bilking Americans out of consultant fees.

And yet, no matter how sophisticated the plans the Dutch engineers come up with, on the ground it always comes down to the Army Corp of Engineers pointing a bulldozer at the water and moving forward until the pile of soil in front is higher than the water level.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 5:51 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


And if those waves start flowing over, they'll permeate the embankment and you'll get all sorts of things like upthrust and liquefaction and goodness knows what. The prospect of an inundation is horrific: the surge of water from a catastrophic failure would crush everything in its path and scour the land clean. There would be few if any survivors.

It's so interesting you put it like that, JiA, because isn't that supposed to be what happened last time? You know, in the Mediterranean with Ziusudra and Enlil and Noah and all that?
posted by glasseyes at 7:28 AM on February 13


Were there some previouslys? Thinking about that catastrophic flooding comment above puts me in mind of the fpp on Harley Bretz and the landscape of the Channeled Scablands. Someone mentioned Doggerland then as well.
posted by glasseyes at 7:41 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


there'll have to be a fantastic system of locks - and some way that a certain navy could get it's subs out without anyone noticing!

They could require that the military put bar codes on all their ships. So they can scan-the-navy-in.
posted by JackFlash at 8:24 AM on February 13 [7 favorites]


I can't not read "massive dams" as "massive clams"

Gah! Cannot unsee! This whole thread is now FULL of clams!

Clamn you, EndsOfInvention...
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 8:51 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


um... the gulf stream is keeping northern europe quite warm for its latitude. how much are those clams going to block the warmth?
posted by Clowder of bats at 8:57 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Then, there is the pollution from the rivers which flow into the North Sea. For instance, The Rhine, isn't so rein anymore. All pollution and industrial waste carried will no longer be cleansed by the Atlantic. Would that fresh water sea be a wasteland? Giant mutant clams! Everyone keep clam and don't attempt to adjust your blindfolds.
posted by Oyéah at 9:06 AM on February 13 [6 favorites]


there'll have to be a fantastic system of locks - and some way that a certain navy could get it's subs out without anyone noticing!

Given that Britain will be part of the barrier between the Atlantic/Irish Sea and the North Sea, it's likely that they will develop some system of canals for crossing between the two, including possibly secret submarine ones for their Trident fleet. Also, it's unclear how Britain, and indeed the rest of Europe, will be geopolitically aligned, though if Brexit turns into Juche-with-British-characteristics, they may not be too expensive to buy off for a secret safe-passage deal.
posted by acb at 9:17 AM on February 13


they may not be too expensive to buy off for a secret safe-passage deal.

I think the comment was more about the Russians, who sail out through the Baltic on a regular basis.

Then, there is the pollution from the rivers which flow into the North Sea. For instance, The Rhine, isn't so rein anymore. All pollution and industrial waste carried will no longer be cleansed by the Atlantic. Would that fresh water sea be a wasteland? Giant mutant clams! Everyone keep clam and don't attempt to adjust your blindfolds.

And apropos the Baltic, that is what happened there, and is still happening, it is a huge tragedy.
posted by mumimor at 9:46 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Project MOSE (let's save Venice) is into its third decade, with the end in sight in 2021, if you believe reports. Some of the original material is having problems. If the worst predictions of water rise are true, the baffles could be required on a near daily basis, requiring significantly more annual maintenance than if is to be used on the originally projected ten times a year.

The press is on.

(Granted, not a static dam, but still - another watery reminder of how big projects get out of hand. )

(In other news, Corona has cut tourism to Venice for Carnevale.)
posted by BWA at 10:23 AM on February 13


Then, there is the pollution from the rivers which flow into the North Sea. For instance, The Rhine, isn't so rein anymore. All pollution and industrial waste carried will no longer be cleansed by the Atlantic.

The Atlantic doesn't really cleanse most waste that is dumped in to it; it mostly just spreads it around. Having to deal with/ reduce that waste or have a superfund site on your doorstep would probably be a net good.
posted by Mitheral at 12:38 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


The Mississippi River floods all the time, and they pay everyone off for the flood damage and build again like it never happened. No elevated homes, just elevated levees and mindless rebuilding of the same mistakes. It is evidence that our narrow, slow-to-evolve culture is in charge of the solutions, which is also the source of the problem.
posted by Brian B. at 1:21 PM on February 13


Oh, the Rhine has been cleaned for quite a while, it's not like the open sewer of my childhood. But there are still leftovers from the past all over the region, here we call it generational pollution. And worse, Poland and Russia are not pulling their weight when it comes to cleaning up the Baltic.
posted by mumimor at 1:23 PM on February 13


I think the comment was more about the Russians, who sail out through the Baltic on a regular basis.

A post-Brexit Juche Britain which is economically and geopolitically on the ropes but too proud to come crawling back to Brussels, not to mention ruled by illiberal kleptocrats, could be up for deals (overt or otherwise) with an expansionist Moscow.
posted by acb at 2:48 PM on February 13


Cannot unsee! This whole thread is now FULL of clams!

I don't get it. What's a clarn?
posted by flabdablet at 6:54 PM on February 13 [4 favorites]


20 bucks, same as in town.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 9:49 PM on February 13 [4 favorites]


I don't get why it would become a lake? The Caspian is a sea. There will still be evaporation.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:00 PM on February 13


It's like that alt.history where the fascists won WWII and Mussolini dams the Straits of Gibraltar and drains the Mediterranean -- what was that in, The Man in the High Castle?

Alantropa
posted by PenDevil at 12:25 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


I don't get it. What's a clarn?

Somebody misread "clarns" for "darns" and thought the article was about attaching the UK to Europe with giant darns.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:56 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


yarn arts will knit us back together
posted by inpHilltr8r at 1:11 AM on February 14


I don't get why it would become a lake? The Caspian is a sea. There will still be evaporation.

I was curious about this as well. It seems that there would be more fresh water flowing in from rivers and streams than can evaporate out, so huge pumps would be necessary to get the water out. Over time this would lead to a freshening of the water – the paper mentions a reduction of the salinity by a factor of 10 in 100 years.
posted by romanb at 3:04 AM on February 14 [3 favorites]


There are some massive rivers flowing into the Baltic and North Sea, The Rhine has been mentioned above, and most people know the Thames and the Neva and the Elbe, but there are many more in Scotland and Scandinavia and the Baltics that are shorter but move lots of water. And obviously, the North Sea region is much colder than the Caspian, so there is less evaporation.
posted by mumimor at 5:02 AM on February 14 [2 favorites]


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