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Pangaea Ultima

23 Oct

I believe that every child looking at a globe has noticed it at some point or another. That weird coincidence between Africa’s and South America’s coastlines – how they kind of look like they fit together, if you smushed them up. Like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. I remember finding a map and cutting the two continents out, just to see how they’d line up. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was, on my own, recreating the first steps towards the theory of continental drift.

In fact, the man who started the idea, a 16th century cartographer named Abraham Ortelius, started with the same observation, although the theory of plate tectonics wasn’t conclusively proven until the early 1950’s when a group of scientists convinced the US Navy to drag a magnetometer behind a submarine, charting the magnetic signatures and history of the sea floor.

The continents are still moving today, albeit very slowly, about four inches a year at most. Thanks to science we actually know the direction and speed these plates travel. Currently the Atlantic Ocean seems bent on spreading wider, most of North America is being shoved into the Rockies, India continues to drive northwards into Asia, and Australia want to move northeast. With a few of educated guesses we can even determine where they will be far into the future.

From scotese.com

The above map depicts on the more popular possibilities, Pangaea Ultima. As the idea goes, the Atlantic Ocean will eventually stop widening and begin to shrink while the Pacific and Indian Oceans start to drastically expand, eventually pushing South America, North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia into one huge landmass. The Mediterranean Sea will be squashed into an incredible mountain range whose height will dwarf the Himalayas of today. Antarctica will sidle northwards for a bit and crash into Australia, only to eventually backtrack and return to its polar domain.

By that time the human species will likely no longer be around to see Pangaea Ultima, but it’s not like it’ll be permanent either. Eventually, plate tectonics will rip the supercontinent apart again, scattering the continents back around the globe.

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2 Comments

Posted by on October 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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2 responses to “Pangaea Ultima

  1. stuart

    October 23, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    I’d love to hear your thoughts about the recent case where the Italian government sentenced scientists to jail.

     
    • theglyptodon

      October 24, 2012 at 5:33 pm

      I’ll put it this way: if I was an Italian scientist, I’d seriously consider changing careers. It should have been a frank discussion about the ability for science to predict and communicate danger. Instead it seems that the Italian government just wants someone to blame.

       

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