Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Planet Earth Geology in the Distant Future

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Geology, Earth & Space Science, Earth Science, Earth Systems, Global Change, Climate Change, Models, Computer Science, Solar System

Ed Hessler

Taking a long look down the pike, 250 million years out, the planet's current landmasses will drift and merge into an Afro-Eurasian  continent which will then crash into North and South America - the two main "bumper cars" still remaining. This new super continent is called Pangea Ultima. There is an alternative but I'm not going to discuss it here.

It will drive volcanism, increase carbon dioxide levels leading to a barren, hot desert for most of the continent and, of course, mass extinction of critters which attract most of us: mammals.. In a new scientific paper this and a worst case scenario are described. 

In this fully accessible review article in Nature Geoscience, 2020, vol. 2 through diagrams and images as well as text explanations you can read about it. The paper is written for specialists but quite a bit is accessible so take a look.

My list is the usual, the author's affiliations and contributions, the abstract, the key points, and the description of the three supercontinent cycles (Pangaea. Rodinia and Columbia), a box on the types of evidence used to reconstruct supercontinents, supercontinent dynamics (lithospheric (aka top down) and mantle tectonics (aka bottom-up), models in geodynamics, and some outstanding frontier questions.

In an essay in Scientific American for general readers reprinted from Nature by Jonathan O'Callaghan about this paper, geologist Hannah Davies said the following about the paper “It does seem like life is going to have a bit more of a hard time in the future. It’s a bit depressing.” 

"A bit more of a hard time?" Huh? "It's a bit depressing." Really?

And this on a more hopeful note. “There have been extinction events in the past, and will be extinction events in the future. I think life will make it through this one. It’s just kind of a grim period.” 

I don't think you need to worry about us. Our survival  seems doubtful long before then but what life? Still that is nice to know. New beginnings.

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