We spend a lot of time thinking about the short-term future. Will AI start a nuclear war in 2040? Will we live in a greenhouse by 2100? But what about the way, way a distant future – what kind of Earth, say, 200 million years?
For one thing, geology will definitely not be the same. According to the international research team, our planet is about 200 to 250 million years from the formation of a new supercontinent – a giant land consisting of seven continents that we now know and love – and they think they have a pretty good idea what it will look like.
The earth's crust consists of 12 tectonic plates that move constantly, very slowly. All these plates are united and then separate in cycles that last around 400 to 600 million years. The last time the plates gathered around 310 million years ago, before the age of dinosaurs, at what point they formed the super Pangea continent.
To find out how the next supercontinent will be seen, the researchers analyzed the history of tectonic plates of the Earth and the tectonic activity that was taking place. From this, they come with four possible configurations of future supercontinents, which they call Novopangea, Pangea Ultima, Aurica, and Amasia.
The researchers believe Novopangea is the most likely scenario, because it will be the result of current conditions – the remaining three scenarios will only play out as a result of major changes in the Earth's tectonic plates, such as the influence of some undeveloped interior anomalies.
Think Big Pictures
Although, obviously, we will not live to see which scenario – if there is one – that really works, the researchers did not do this project just for fun. As they noted in an article published in Conversation:
Investigating the tectonic future of the Earth forces us to push the boundaries of our knowledge, and think about the processes that make up our planet on a long time scale. It also directs us to think about the Earth's system as a whole, and raises a series of other questions – what is the climate of the next supercontinent? How will ocean circulation adjust? How will life evolve and adapt? These are the types of questions that push the boundaries of science even further because they push the boundaries of our imagination.
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