At the beginning of Waterworld, we learn that the entire world is completely submerged

"The future: The polar icecaps have melted, covering the Earth with water"

enter image description here
Edited opening sequence

However, according to this rather fancy video from BusinessInsider, if all of the icecaps melted, then sea levels could rise by as much as 216 feet, catastrophically placing many coastal cities and provinces at risk of submersion but hardly the entire world.

Where did the extra water come from to make the Earth into Waterworld? Was this discrepancy ever addressed by the makers of the film?

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    Oh...and someone has gills...let's not forget the gills. I think the number usually bandied about is 200ft (not 20) but that still wouldn't do it. - filmschoolrejects.com/… – Paulie_D Nov 6 '16 at 22:04
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    Bad movie physics. – Mat Cauthon Nov 6 '16 at 22:06
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    It's not clear how much the water levels had risen, either, although it seems to be over 8,000 meters. – SQB Nov 6 '16 at 22:10
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    Well, Denver is over 500 feet submerged and it's at least 1 mile above sea level. The finale of the film is set at the peak of Mount Everest, some 5 miles up. Either way it's bonkers. I want to know if they knew – Valorum Nov 6 '16 at 22:13
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    It's rather sad. All of the ocean's sponges went extinct. The melting ice caps and the water released from the dead sponges was enough when combined to flood the entire planet except the quaint little tattoo island. – Major Stackings Nov 7 '16 at 5:25

Icy asteroids

According to the tie-in comic series Waterworld: Children of Leviathan, the flooding was caused by “icy death” that “rained down from above.” enter image description here

Given that this is accompanied by images of asteroids pummeling the Earth, I think we can say that the “icy death” referred to is ice-containing asteroids, and not, say, an unexpected hailstorm. Possibly the heat of impact also caused melting of the polar ice caps. Of course, the number of asteroids needed to raise the sea level significantly would be quite significant, thus releasing a considerable amount of energy—which is fairly consistent with the massive waves also shown. According to Wikipedia, the Antarctic ice sheet, which contains the majority of Earth’s freshwater, would amount to perhaps 58 meters (~200 feet) of sea level rise. Thus the asteroids would need to contain over 100 times as much water as the Antarctic ice sheet, meaning a mass of ice many times larger than the mass of the Chicxulub impactor. So the scientific plausibility of this hypothesis is still questionable (unless the tremendous mass of asteroids somehow was slowed).

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    You sir, just won yourself a bounty. – Valorum Dec 27 '16 at 18:38
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    Good answer, but if that was supposed to be the cause in the movie, I don't think they would have left that out and only mentioned and depicted the ice caps melting. – farhangfarhangfar Dec 28 '16 at 2:54
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    @farhangfarhangfar - It probably wasn’t. They probably just got the science even more wrong. This is an interesting retcon or addition to the canon which makes things more plausible, though. – Adamant Dec 28 '16 at 2:55
  • Basically "getting the science right" in these cases just means burying nonsense a bit deeper. I never liked the English term "science fiction," there's rarely any real science in even the best sci fi . Always preferred the Russian term "fantastika." – Misha R Dec 31 '16 at 17:47
  • "the heat of impact also caused melting of the polar ice caps" Just for fun I BotEd this: after heating the incoming ice to 1750C, there's enough excess heat to dump around 1e29 Joules of heat into the atmosphere, oceans and crust of the Earth. (That's around the energy from 10000 years of sunlight!) – DavidW Apr 17 at 0:55

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