February 9, 2012
Next Supercontinent Could Be Formed Near North Pole
All of Earth's continents, believed to have once been joined together as a supercontinent known as Pangaea, will be reunited as a single landmass near the North Pole within the next 50 million to 200 million years, researchers from Yale University claim in a new study.
According to MSNBC Science Editor Alan Boyle, the Yale researchers, including geologist Ross Mitchell, used a computer model to determine the estimated location of the new supercontinent, which they have dubbed Amasia due to the formation beginning when Europe and Asia merge with North and South America.
Boyle notes that many scientists have predicted that "either the Atlantic Ocean will close up, reversing the trend that broke apart the last supercontinent ... or that the current spreading zone in the Atlantic will push the continents 180 degrees around the world to close up the Pacific instead."
However, Mitchell and his colleagues believe that the new continental conglomeration will instead form in the far north, with the Arctic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea being among the first casualties.
"After those water bodies close, we´re on our way to the next supercontinent,” Mitchell, who is the first author of a paper describing the research which has been published in the journal Nature, said in a statement Wednesday. “You´d have the Americas meeting Eurasia practically at the North Pole.”
Though Pangaea is believed that have been the most recent supercontinent, geologists believe there have been others throughout the years, according to BBC News Science and Health Reporter Neil Bowdler.
Before Pangaea, experts have hypothesized that there was a supercontinent known as Rodinia some one billion years ago, and before that (1.8 billion years ago) was another worldwide landmass known as Nuna.
Based on their analysis of all previous supercontinents, Mitchell, senior author and Yale Professor David A.D. Evans, and second author and doctoral student Taylor M. Kilian discovered that from one landmass to the next, the geographic centers were offset from one another by approximately 90 degrees.
They call this new model the "orthoversion model" of supercontinent formation, the university reported.
According to this model, Boyle says, North America and South America will come closer together to eliminate the Caribbean. After that, "North America would be drawn along the Pacific 'Ring of Fire' to crash into Eurasia and close the Arctic Ocean. The Mediterranean Sea would disappear when Africa smashes into Europe. Australia would continue its current northward drift, becoming part of Asia somewhere between India and Japan. Antarctica, meanwhile, would be left out of the supercontinent, at least at first."
"Under the orthoversion model, either Asia or North America would become the center of Amasia, in a spot currently occupied by the Arctic Ocean," the Yale press release added. "A newly formed mountain range will stitch them together."
Image Caption: Yale scientists theorize that the present-day Arctic Ocean and Caribbean Sea will vanish as North and South America fuse during a mutual northward migration that leads to a collision with Europe and Asia.
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