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Global Warming and the Halo backstory (long read)
Posted By: Jordan117Date: 9/14/06 7:34 p.m.

I think I may have discovered a part of Earth's unspoken backstory.

It all started while I was goofing around on the beaches of Outskirts. I began wondering about the architecture of the area. Seawalls, towers, docks extending out into the sand... why was it all there? What purpose did it serve? These questions seemed even more interesting after I saw more of the walls and towers at the base of the space elevator at the end of Metropolis.

Then it occured to me. The sea wall, the high-and-dry docks, the coastal setting: global warming was the culprit.

I'll explain this using an excerpt from an article I wrote for Halopedia:

The mainland districts were stifled, ironically, by their thrist for growth. During the 21st and 22nd centuries, sea levels worldwide began rising due to global warming. Port cities around the planet were faced with a choice: construct flood control measures, or drown. In Mombasa, it was decided that, rather than shore up the old docks on Mombasa Island, it would be easier to build brand new ports on the mainland, southwest of the city. So massive seawalls were built to hold back the rising waters, and new dock structures extended out into Kilindini Harbor.

For a time, these docks brought prosperity to the mainland. Shantytowns were demolished to make way for new office buildings, highways were constructed, and commerce thrived. But by the end of the 23rd century, global warming began to reverse as new technologies emerged and millions of people departed Earth for colonies in the rest of the Solar System. Sea levels began receding as temperatures dropped worldwide. In time, the port facilities on the mainland were left literally high and dry.

Unfortunately, interstellar travel was discovered just as the mainland's ports became useless. As a result, the space elevator and its attendent port system was constructed on Mombasa Island instead. Consequently, the island-city transformed into the hi-tech metropolis of New Mombasa, while the mainland area languished, closed off behind its useless seawall.

This explains the superfluous sea wall and the useless docks.

After deducing this, I thought: these changes should be visible from space, too. So off to Cairo Station I went.

Once there, I found more clues that confirmed my theory:

The lack of coastal cities: Even today, Africa has many coastal cities visible from space. However, in the view of Earth seen from Cairo Station, the coasts are relatively empty. For instance, today, West Africa has port cities like Dakar, Bissau, and Conakry. In 2552, these cities are absent. Google Earth confirmed my suspicion: these cities were built on river deltas or delicate peninsulas, easily swamped by rising waters. The only surviving West African port city, Abidjan, is built on a relatively high rocky promontory.

The Nigerian megalopolis: There is one exception to the above. On the coast of what is now Nigeria is a sprawling megacity. Where the other cities are dim specks, this metropolis is a sea of light. It spreads over a hundred miles, encompassing Benin City, Port Harcourt, Aba, and hundreds of square miles of farmland.

But why is this? The city is built on the delta of the Niger River.

There are two explanations: either the city built flood control measures like in Mombasa, or it was resettled after the seas resettled. The second option is more likely, since it seems like the population of the other ports simply moved into this new, state-of-the-art city, inflating it to incredible size.

A few other things I noticed: South Africa seems largely abandoned (perhaps everyone moved to planet Biko, named after a famous South African activist?) as does Spain (compare to a modern nighttime image), the brightly-lit Canary Islands are missing, and parts of France and Germany seem flooded.

The man-made lakes: If you look just to the west of Cairo, you can see a rather large lake that doesn't show up on any modern maps. After poking around Wikipedia awhile, I found this:

The Qattara Depression is a desert basin within the Libyan Desert of north-western Egypt. The Depression, at 133m below sea level, contains the second lowest point in Africa. The Depression covers about 7000 square miles, and at its maximum is 80km in length and 120km in width. The bottom of the depression consists of a salt pan.

The large size of the Quattara Depression and the fact that it falls to a depth of 132m below sea level has led to several proposals to create a massive hydro-electric project in northern Egypt rivaling the Aswan High Dam. The proposals all call for a large channel or tunnel being excavated from the Quattara due north about 80km to the Mediterranean Sea. Water would flow from the channel into a series of hydro-electric penstocks which would release the water at 90m below sea level. Because the Quattara is in a very hot dry region with very little cloud cover, the water released at the 90m level would spread out from the release point across the basin until evaporating from solar influx. Because the depression is so deep and broad, a great deal of water would be let in to maintain the artificial salt sea at the 90m level and as the water evaporates more sea water would be sent through the penstocks to generate more electricity.

If you look closely, you can see more such lakes in Tunisia and west of the Persian Gulf in Iraq.

The Black Sea: The final clue can be seen in the cutscene for Cairo Station. In this cinematic, a different version of Earth is used. Now, when you look at this version closely, you can see that the coast of the Black Sea is quite different. For one thing, the Crimean Peninsula is now an island. Also, various peninsulas in and around the Sea of Marmara and the Sea of Azov have changed shape drastically. Again, using Google Earth, it's clear that these areas were low-lying and fragile, and did not survive the rising waters. When the ocean resettled, the coastlines changed.

This theory might not be very useful, but it does cast a lot of light on Earth's history, and is a great example of how dedicated Bungie is to creating a deep and cohesive universe, even if parts of it are never made explicit.

Halorama 2: Old Mombasa seawall

Earth at Night

Map of the Black Sea

Map of Dakar
Map of Bissau
Map of Conakry

Halopedia: New Mombasa
Wikipedia: Qattara Depression

Message Index


Global Warming and the Halo backstory (long read)Jordan117 9/14/06 7:34 p.m.
     Fixed "Bissau" linkJordan117 9/14/06 7:37 p.m.
     I like it! Never noticed that.... *NM*BJB 9/14/06 7:45 p.m.
     Excellent ReadMister Froggy 9/14/06 7:46 p.m.
     Re: Global Warming and the Halo backstory (long reDP 9/14/06 7:47 p.m.
           Re: Global Warming and the Halo backstory (long reKoCKynVainn 9/14/06 7:59 p.m.
                 Re: Global Warming and the Halo backstory (long reShortRoundMcfly 9/14/06 8:47 p.m.
                 Indeed! Great work! *NM*Eastbeast314 9/14/06 9:45 p.m.
     great theory *NM*NeedzABetterSN 9/14/06 9:39 p.m.
     Sea level visualization toolJordan117 9/14/06 9:52 p.m.
     Superb effort and fantastic payoff!AngelicLionheart 9/14/06 9:59 p.m.
           Re: Superb effort and fantastic payoff!jman571 9/14/06 10:12 p.m.
     Wow, great job! Very interesting! *NM*Omniscient 9/14/06 10:10 p.m.
     Its just one of those things...Vlad3163 9/14/06 10:45 p.m.
     Very nice. *NM*Peronthious 9/14/06 11:08 p.m.
     Re: Global Warming and the Halo backstory (long reJordan117 9/14/06 11:14 p.m.
           ^^^ Links to Cairo cutscene above ^^^ *NM*Jordan117 9/14/06 11:16 p.m.
     Only on HBO...Great Work *NM* *NM*Dundradal 9/14/06 11:36 p.m.
     Re: Global Warming and the Halo backstory (long reAce Heart 9/14/06 11:47 p.m.
     Re: Global Warming and the Halo backstory (long reprinceofthesword 9/15/06 5:05 a.m.
     Excellent, props! Nice read! *NM*Mirel 9/15/06 7:10 a.m.
     Very well done.jester_343 9/15/06 7:33 a.m.
     Unfortunately...Funkmon 9/15/06 8:58 a.m.
           Then what? (plus another clue)Jordan117 9/15/06 9:38 a.m.
                 Oceans can rise for other reasons.Funkmon 9/15/06 10:32 a.m.
                       Yeah man, but it's a 'dry' heat. *NM*Blackstar 9/15/06 12:55 p.m.
     500 years isn't enough timeSchedonnardus 9/15/06 11:51 a.m.
           Re: 500 years isn't enough timeMinkOWar 9/15/06 2:43 p.m.
     never heard of that river!syris 9/15/06 4:25 p.m.
           Re: never heard of that river!KoCKynVainn 9/16/06 2:50 p.m.
                 Re: never heard of that river!Jordan117 9/16/06 8:19 p.m.
     Re: Global Warming and the Halo backstory (long refrobie 9/15/06 6:11 p.m.
     Re: Global Warming and the Halo backstory (long remaxthehedgie 9/15/06 7:46 p.m.
     That is very interesting... *NM*Dragonclaws 9/16/06 7:18 p.m.

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