The Earth has evolved over millions of years with tectonic plates changing the face of the planet from time to time. Shattering the Pangea supercontinent, these tectonic plates organized the Earth’s surface into seven continents and five oceans.
Scientists say these tectonic plates are not yet complete and the Earth is still evolving. They assessed how the current structure of the planet will change over the next 200 to 250 million years.
Led by Michael Way of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the researchers examined how the evolution of plate tectonics, the increasing luminosity of the Sun, and a slightly slower rate of rotation would lead to future climate scenarios. .
They found two different scenarios that could occur in the future and the difference between the average surface temperatures of these two cases differs by several degrees Celsius.
In a study published in the journal “Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems”, the researchers said: “In one case the current continents form a single landmass near the equator, and in the other case Antarctica remains in place, but the rest of the current continents are mostly pushed well north of the equator. “
Land halfway to the present continental formation
The continents on Earth aggregate into supercontinents and then disperse in a 400 to 600 million year cycle known as the Supercontinent Cycle.
“Pangea formed about 310 million years ago and began to disintegrate about 180 million years ago. The next supercontinent will most likely form in 200 to 250 million years, which means Earth is currently halfway through the dispersed phase of the current supercontinent cycle. ” said the newspaper.
Researchers have established strong links between large-scale tectonics (movement of the Earth’s lithospheric plates) and climate change.
Individual grid cell for a 50-year climatological average (from the last 50 years of each run) of the months of December, January and February (top) and June, July and August (bottom). (Photo: Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems)
They said it would be interesting to know what Earth’s climate might look like in the distant future when continental movements moved the planet away from the current continental configuration.
The researchers explored two plausible formations. The first would be Aurica, a low latitude supercontinent that will develop over the next 250 million years.
The second would be Amasia, a northern high-latitude supercontinent and a smaller Antarctic subcontinent taking shape in about 200 million years.
“Amasia is essentially an Arctic supercontinent with an independent and isolated Antarctic continent, which means both poles are covered with land, and much of it is covered with ice,” the newspaper said.
Major changes expected in the future
Several models have been designed to predict Earth’s climate in the near future. While one group of researchers explored Earth’s distant future climate by examining the increase in carbon dioxide and solar insolation over time, others have studied the climate effects induced by additional changes in the topography of the planet.
The researchers found that the high-elevation land on Amasia would cause ice caps to form, and the white supercontinent would reflect more heat from the sun.
The continents on Earth aggregate into supercontinents and then disperse in a cycle of 400,600 million years.
The lack of a North Polar Ocean means that more ice resides on land and in lakes throughout the year near the North Pole, as we see in present day Antarctica.
During this time, Aurica will have little snow or ice and an average temperature of around 20 degrees Celsius.
“The constantly changing geological formations on the Earth’s surface have a strong influence on our climate,” the researchers said, citing how the Himalayas, a consequence of the India-Eurasia collision, contribute to monsoon weather conditions.
Studying these climate changes based on topographic movements will also help astronomers create a climate model of an Earth-like exoplanet using parameters known to maintain habitability and a stable biosphere.
“Using the future distant Earth as a basis for exoplanetary climate studies allows us to establish ranges of sensitivity for the habitability and climatic stability of the future Earth and its distant cousins in our galaxy,” says the document.