Earth Will Become One Big Supercontinent Again, And It Will Probably Kill Us

  

Category:  Health, Science & Technology

Via:  freefaller  •  one month ago  •  40 comments

Earth Will Become One Big Supercontinent Again, And It Will Probably Kill Us

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T



  • G eoscientists say Earth will be home to one massive supercontinent about 200 million years from now; there are four prominent versions of this mega-continent.
  • The   climate   might be surprisingly balmy in one of the most popular versions, but there is also the potential for an ice age.
  • In the off-chance that a post- human species   survives, they might have to be in a state of equilibrium with the natural ecosystem.

Pangea (or   Pangaea ), the humongous landmass that joined together all seven continents into one massive continent during Earth’s prehistoric past, broke apart around   200 million years ago.   In a fascinating twist of terrestrial evolution, it turns out that we’re about 200 million years away from the   formation of a new, Pangea-like supercontinent , scientists say.

There are four prevailing versions of how this supercontinent will   evolve , according to a research article published in   Geological Magazine   in 2018.

In the  first scenario , we assume the Atlantic Ocean keeps opening up, while the Pacific Ocean keeps closing. The Pacific Ocean, for its part, is full of  subduction zones , or places where oceanic plates are sinking down into continental plates and then into Earth’s mantle. (This is also why  80 percent  of big  earthquakes  occur around the edges of the Pacific Ocean, also known as the “Ring of Fire.”)

As a result of this   tectonic activity , the Americas continue to separate from Europe and Africa, which means they eventually smash into northbound Antarctica, and eventually into Africa, Europe, and Asia, which will have already been crammed together. Meanwhile, Australia will have docked to East Asia. The result is one immense mega-continent called “Novopangea” (Greco-Latin for “New Pangea”).

In the   “Pangea Proxima” (or “next Pangea”) scenario , the Atlantic as well as the Indian Ocean continues to expand until new subduction zones pull the continents back again, resulting in a collision between Eurasia and the rest of the continents. To visualize the end result, picture a somewhat ring-shaped landmass with a small   ocean   basin at its center.

The Pacific and the Atlantic are really old—a whopping   200 million   and   180 million years old , respectively. So, what if they both closed? In that case, the supercontinent of“ Aurica ” (a portmanteau word from “Australia” and “America”) would be born.

“We are assuming there are only two oceans, the Atlantic and the Pacific. But on Earth, you have more options, like the Indian Ocean,” says   João C. Duarte , an assistant professor in tectonics at the University of Lisbon Portugal, who is also the creator of the Aurica hypothesis. “It’s possible to close both the Atlantic and the Pacific, because they are both at this time really old,” Duarte tells   Popular Mechanics . All you need is a third ocean. It’s already there and it’s the Indian Ocean, the youngest of the bunch, “only” about   140 million years old . So, if the Indian Ocean opens in the future, and the Pacific and the Atlantic close, all seven continents will become one big Aurica around the   equator .

Finally,   the “Amasia”   (a portmanteau from “Americas” and “Asia”) theory speculates that the Atlantic and Pacific will remain open, while the Arctic Ocean closes. In that case, all continents except Antarctica will start moving north and settle near the North Pole. “You end up with just a huge ocean around the   North Pole   and Antarctica on the other side,” says Duarte.

In research that was published in the journal   Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems   in July 2021, researchers used 3D global climate models to simulate how the Aurica and Amasia land arrangements would impact our climate. If you are a fan of Netflix’s post-apocalyptic dystopian thriller series   Snowpiercer , in which the entire world is frozen except for a train called Snowpiercer that is incessantly circling Earth, rejoice. If the Amasia scenario outshines the others, and all land masses around the North and South Poles, the lack of land in between will disrupt the   ocean conveyor belt,   a constantly-moving system of deep-ocean circulation that carries heat from the equator to the poles, making the poles not only colder, but covered in ice all year long. “All of that ice would reflect heat out into space,”   Michael Way,   a physical scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, who spearheaded the July 2021 study, tells   Popular Mechanics .

Aurica, on the other hand, might turn out to be a surfer’s paradise. “This supercontinent will be near the equator, so it will probably be a little warmer, and maybe drier than today’s Earth,” says Duarte, who believes Aurica is the likeliest supercontinent scenario and Amasia the least likely. A warmer Earth (by three degrees Celsius, according to their models) could lead to a proliferation of Brazil-like coasts, with beautiful, white-sand beaches, enchanting coral reefs, and sand dune complexes, but also strong ocean currents.

There’s a catch, though. A glaciated Amasia would wipe out almost all forms of life on Earth, sparing only life in the ocean— Waterworld ,   anyone? But that doesn’t mean that the balmier Aurica won’t be cruel to a lot of species. “Many species will face fierce competition and fight each other for survival as continents come together. We should be expecting   mass extinctions ,” says Duarte.

For   Alex Pullen , an assistant professor of environmental engineering and earth sciences at Clemson University in South Carolina, we come up against certain challenges when we try to look that deep into the future. For a start, we have no idea what vegetation will look like 200 million years from now. “Plants have a profound impact on atmospheric chemistry, precipitation, clouds, and albedo (which is   the fraction of light   a surface reflects),” Pullen tells   Popular Mechanics . “Also, once the continents reach a supercontinent state,   carbon dioxide emissions   from volcanic activity are a major uncertainty.”

Additionally, we have no clue what   greenhouse gasses   will look like in the future, nor do we know how the ocean and atmospheric circulation around Aurica and Amasia would impact these greenhouse gasses, Pullen continues. “No aerosols (microscopic   solid or liquid particles   suspended in the air or as a gas) were included in the models either, which are profoundly important to the climate,” he says.

But Way knows there are a host of things that are beyond our grasp of prediction, given how we abuse the planet. “We can’t really understand how climate change or filling the oceans with pollution and   plastic   are going to affect the planet,” he says. He is pessimistic about humans, but not about the planet. “For most of the last four billion years, our planet has had fairly temperate conditions on its surface, except for a few small periods of time. We don’t completely understand how the planet has managed that. It’s amazing, right?” he says. “The planet is probably going to recover from the abuse we’ve given it.”

Perhaps humans will survive, too, but in a more evolved fashion. Mind you, we have been conditioned to believe evolution is directional, though.

“We believe evolution is always moving in the direction of improvement. ‘Yeah, we are very intelligent,’ we say,” Duarte explains. “Maybe in the future there will be   superintelligence , but that assumes intelligence is always a good thing,” Duarte continues. There   are theories   saying intelligent species come with a load of self-destruction baggage. “We have the ability to create nuclear weapons that can kill all humanity,” Duarte says, alluding to the ongoing   Russo-Ukrainian War . For a post-human species 50 to 250 million years into the future to survive, you need more than intelligence: you need to live in harmony with the surrounding ecosystem, Duarte says.

In any case, these changes won’t come in our lifetime, or in our grandchildren’s lifetimes, or even in 1,000 grandchildren’s lifetimes, as Way puts it. They are already happening though. We cannot feel it, but everything is changing—constantly, subtly, imperceptibly.

“We have mountain building on Earth. We have new islands being generated in the Pacific from volcanism... The plates are still moving on the planet and there’s a Richter-6 earthquake everyday somewhere on the planet,” says Way. We are probably halfway through a major planetary transition, and we don’t even know it.


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Freefaller
Professor Participates
1  seeder  Freefaller    one month ago

Interesting possibilities, though given our short lifespams it is hard to imagine that kind of timescale.  Lol wish I could see that but not likely

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Freshman Principal
1.1  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  Freefaller @1    one month ago
Lol wish I could see that but not likely

Sure would make international travel easier.

 
 
 
Freefaller
Professor Participates
1.1.1  seeder  Freefaller  replied to  Drinker of the Wry @1.1    one month ago

Good thinking, maybe what a 10 minute walk from Los Angeles to Hawaii

 
 
 
Lucifer Morningstar
Professor Guide
1.2  Lucifer Morningstar  replied to  Freefaller @1    4 weeks ago

Look the the reality of that happening is zilch, humans will destroy themselves long before that ever enters the realm of reality.

 
 
 
Freefaller
Professor Participates
1.2.1  seeder  Freefaller  replied to  Lucifer Morningstar @1.2    4 weeks ago

The chances of a supercontinent forming are zilch?  Cause I said nothing about humans being there to witness it.

 
 
 
Gordy327
Professor Principal
1.2.2  Gordy327  replied to  Lucifer Morningstar @1.2    3 weeks ago

Continental drift will continue to happen regardless if humans are around or not. The continents drifting apart will eventually come back together again. It's just going to take several hundred million years or so.

 
 
 
bccrane
Freshman Silent
1.2.3  bccrane  replied to  Gordy327 @1.2.2    3 weeks ago

Or continental drift is slowing from an initial massive move and a chain of islands will start emerging from the mid Atlantic ridge.

 
 
 
Lucifer Morningstar
Professor Guide
1.2.4  Lucifer Morningstar  replied to  Freefaller @1.2.1    2 weeks ago

Correct,  I should have qualified it to within the timeframe of human history.

 
 
 
Lucifer Morningstar
Professor Guide
1.2.5  Lucifer Morningstar  replied to  Freefaller @1.2.1    2 weeks ago

And you can't really blame me given the headline that refers to it "killing us"

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
2  TᵢG    one month ago

Interesting.   But given 200 million years, an awful lot of changes can occur.   I find it hard to imagine that human beings (given our nature) will survive until then ... I suspect we will wind up killing ourselves (et. al.) well before that.

 
 
 
Freefaller
Professor Participates
2.1  seeder  Freefaller  replied to  TᵢG @2    one month ago

I can't even conceive of the amount of change that can occur over that length, likely those of us here now wouldn't even recognize the world of that time.

I'm a little more hopeful for our survival but who knows what we'll be, a galaxy encompassing society or apelike creatures grubbing in the dirt for worms and bugs.  Evolution only dictates survival (no guarantees) not a graduation to a higher form

 
 
 
Gordy327
Professor Principal
2.2  Gordy327  replied to  TᵢG @2    one month ago

Even if we do survive, I wonder how much further we'll evolve. Besides, from a geological standpoint, the continents merging into a supercontinent will be so gradual, we can probably adapt to the geological changes. At least, to some extent. 

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
2.2.1  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Gordy327 @2.2    one month ago

200 million years?  Maybe by that time we will have become capable of colonizing other planets.  I have watched science fiction become reality in a number of ways during my lifetime.

 
 
 
Gordy327
Professor Principal
2.2.2  Gordy327  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @2.2.1    one month ago

Colonization might be the only way we can survive. 

 
 
 
Paula Bartholomew
Professor Guide
2.2.3  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @2.2.1    one month ago

By then, it will be like the premise of the movie After Earth.  Earth was so poisoned that no human life could survive there forcing us to colonize other worlds to start over.

 
 
 
Ed-NavDoc
Professor Quiet
2.3  Ed-NavDoc  replied to  TᵢG @2    one month ago

In that amount of time we will have either gone the way of the dinosaurs and killed ourselves off because we will have depleted the planet of natural resources, and/or we will have found a way to transport ourselves to another planet either in our solar system or another star system altogether. 

 
 
 
Right Down the Center
Freshman Guide
3  Right Down the Center    one month ago

And in the end the only thing that will remain is Twinkies, they last forever.

 
 
 
Jack_TX
Senior Quiet
3.1  Jack_TX  replied to  Right Down the Center @3    one month ago
Twinkies, they last forever.

Not in my house, they don't.

 
 
 
Gordy327
Professor Principal
3.2  Gordy327  replied to  Right Down the Center @3    one month ago

For some reason, I'm reminded of this scene from Ghostbusters, Lol

 
 
 
Right Down the Center
Freshman Guide
3.2.1  Right Down the Center  replied to  Gordy327 @3.2    one month ago

Reminded me of this one also.

 
 
 
Gordy327
Professor Principal
3.2.2  Gordy327  replied to  Right Down the Center @3.2.1    one month ago

Good one! 👍 

 
 
 
Freefaller
Professor Participates
3.3  seeder  Freefaller  replied to  Right Down the Center @3    one month ago

I thought I heard they stopped making twinkies a few years ago

 
 
 
Right Down the Center
Freshman Guide
3.3.1  Right Down the Center  replied to  Freefaller @3.3    one month ago

They did, I think they are back

 
 
 
Paula Bartholomew
Professor Guide
3.3.2  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  Freefaller @3.3    one month ago

They are still around to include chocolate Twinkies.

 
 
 
Right Down the Center
Freshman Guide
3.3.3  Right Down the Center  replied to  Paula Bartholomew @3.3.2    one month ago

Somehow that almost seems sacrilegious. 

 
 
 
Freefaller
Professor Participates
3.3.4  seeder  Freefaller  replied to  Paula Bartholomew @3.3.2    one month ago

Lol Paula I feel weird saying this but I don't believe I've ever had a Twinkie in my life

 
 
 
Paula Bartholomew
Professor Guide
3.3.5  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  Freefaller @3.3.4    one month ago

Do you plan to try one?

 
 
 
Freefaller
Professor Participates
3.3.6  seeder  Freefaller  replied to  Paula Bartholomew @3.3.5    one month ago

Paula no, I've removed sugar as much as possible from my diet due to having Type II diabetes

 
 
 
Paula Bartholomew
Professor Guide
3.3.7  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  Freefaller @3.3.6    one month ago

I understand.

 
 
 
Paula Bartholomew
Professor Guide
3.3.8  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  Freefaller @3.3.6    4 weeks ago

I was grocery shopping yesterday and when I saw the Twinkies and thought of you.  I was a little sad knowing that you will never experience having one.

 
 
 
Tacos!
Professor Expert
4  Tacos!    one month ago

What a silly headline and story. It’s going to kill us? Someone is looking for those clicks.

It’s not like this change is going to happen overnight, taking the human race by surprise - now or 200 million years from now. We may not even be living on this planet in 200 million years, and if we are, I doubt very much we will be close to the same species. Whatever the case, it’s not going to sneak up on whoever is living here.

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
4.1  TᵢG  replied to  Tacos! @4    one month ago
Whatever the case, it’s not going to sneak up on whoever is living here.

It might.   The most intelligent species on that planet at that time might be some future variant of cockroach.  jrSmiley_82_smiley_image.gif

 
 
 
Freefaller
Professor Participates
4.2  seeder  Freefaller  replied to  Tacos! @4    one month ago
What a silly headline

I agree with you, but in our world of 24/7 instantanious internet news cycle headlines have to be attention grabbers to get the views (and the $$$). Nothing we the readers can do about it.

 and story

Gotta diagree here I found the story an informative and interesting read on the possible future configurations of our planet..  But to each their own I suppose

 
 
 
Tacos!
Professor Expert
4.2.1  Tacos!  replied to  Freefaller @4.2    one month ago
I found the story an informative and interesting read on the possible future configurations of our planet.

Sure. I don’t believe my comment should be seen as implying that I think the consequences of continental drift are not interesting.

 
 
 
Paula Bartholomew
Professor Guide
4.3  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  Tacos! @4    4 weeks ago

Sometimes "silly" is what we need.

 
 
 
bccrane
Freshman Silent
5  bccrane    one month ago

Scientists sure do like building future scenarios from assumptions.

Here they make an assumption that continental drift is constant and come up with a time of 200,000,000 years from Pangaea and therefore another 200 million years to the next super continent.  What if there was no Pangaea, instead earth was plate less with mainly lowlands and shallow seas when a moon sized object collided and was absorbed into earth creating the largest crater on earth, the Pacific ocean, and on the opposite side the now fractured crust pushed together at first to create the highest mountain range, the Appalachians, then the internal pressure split the earth along the new fault creating the Atlantic ocean.  The event splitting "Pangaea" could've taken place 100 million years ago and continental drift is slowing down.

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
5.1  TᵢG  replied to  bccrane @5    one month ago

Clearly this is based on magnificent assumptions.   I suspect the scientists involved would readily admit that.

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
5.2  Trout Giggles  replied to  bccrane @5    one month ago

Did you ever take a good look at a Mercator Map? Look at the coastlines of the continents and see if it doesn't look like a giant jigsaw puzzle

 
 
 
Ed-NavDoc
Professor Quiet
5.2.1  Ed-NavDoc  replied to  Trout Giggles @5.2    one month ago

Ever heard of the Piri Reis world map and the map on Antarctica coastline beneath the permanent ice? It's a eye opener.

 
 
 
Freefaller
Professor Participates
5.2.2  seeder  Freefaller  replied to  Ed-NavDoc @5.2.1    one month ago

To be fair there is some doubt that map is depicting the nortthern antartic coastline, rather it is also believed it depicts the southern south american coastline.  Who knows whatever the case it is still a very impressive map for 1513

 
 

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