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Meet The World’s Next Supercontinent, Amasia

Meet The World’s Next Supercontinent, Amasia

Earth’s next supercontinent, Amasia, will likely form when the Pacific Ocean closes in 200 to 300 million years, a Curtin University-led study reveals.

Published in National Science Review, the research team used a supercomputer to simulate how supercontinent forms and found that because the Earth has been cooling for billions of years, the thickness and strength of the plates beneath the Oceans shrink over time, making it harder for the next supercontinent to assemble by closing off “young” oceans like the Atlantic or Indian Oceans.

“Earth’s known supercontinents are thought to have formed in very different ways, with two end members being introversion and extroversion,” they write in National Science Review.

We currently live on the fragmented remnants of the Pangea supercontinent, which formed 335 million years ago and disintegrated during the rise of the dinosaurs. The existence of even older supercontinents, such as Rodinia and Columbia (Nuna), suggests that the Earth is trapped in a “supercontinent cycle” that sees the formation and destruction of these immense landmasses in an approximate timeline of 600 million years. The cycle raises the question of what kind of new supercontinent might arise millions of years from now, leading scientists to propose future landmasses with names like Novopangea, Aurica and Amasia.

To shed light on this mystery, researchers led by Chuan Huang, a geophysicist at Curtin University in Australia, simulated Earth’s future with a supercomputer. The results suggest that a new supercontinent, Amasia, will form when the Pacific Ocean shrinks to nothing in about 200 million years, causing North America to crash into Asia, according to a recent study published in National Science Review.

The future rise of Amasia, a portmanteau of America and Asia, has been discussed by scientists for more than a decade, but there is debate over whether this supercontinent would form “from the inside out,” a process known as introversion, or “from outside in” which is called extroversion.

Introversion implies the closure of the post-Pangea oceans, such as the Indian or Atlantic, while extroversion indicates the closure of the Pacific Ocean, which is the oldest ocean on Earth and is shrinking at a rate of about an inch by year.

“The first involves the closure of the internal oceans formed during the breakup of the previous supercontinent, while the second involves the closure of the previous external superocean.”

They add: “However, it is unclear what caused such divergent behaviour of supercontinent cycles that involved first-order interaction between subducting tectonic plates and the mantle. Here we address this question through 4-D geodynamic modelling using realistic tectonic settings.”

A 2012 report in Science said the geological record “reveals that in the last 2 billion years, there have been three supercontinents.”

Lead author Dr Chuan Huang, from Curtin’s Earth Dynamics Research Group and School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, said in a statement that the new findings were significant and provided insight into what would happen to Earth. Earth in the next 200 million years.

For the past two billion years, Earth’s continents have collided to form a supercontinent every 600 million years, known as the supercontinent cycle. This means that the current continents will come together again in a couple of hundred million years,” said Dr. Huang.

He added: “The resulting new supercontinent has already been named Amasia because some believe that the Pacific Ocean will close (unlike the Atlantic and Indian Oceans) when the Americas collide with Asia. Australia is also expected to play a role in this major land event, first colliding with Asia and then connecting the Americas and Asia once the Pacific Ocean closes.”

He said that by simulating how Earth’s tectonic plates are expected to evolve using a supercomputer, “we were able to show that in less than 300 million years the Pacific Ocean is likely to close, allowing Amasia to form, debunking some previous scientific theories.”

“Earth as we know it will be drastically different when Amasia forms. Sea levels are expected to be lower, and the vast interior of the supercontinent will be very arid with high daily temperature ranges,” Professor Li said.

“Currently, the Earth is made up of seven continents with very different ecosystems and human cultures, so it would be fascinating to think what the world will look like in 200 to 300 million years.”


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