How Earth`s next supercontinent `Amasia` will form

Last Updated: Friday, February 10, 2012 - 21:21

Washington: In the coming 50 to 200 million years, Australia may merge with India while all the continents may collide each other to form one massive supercontinent, scientists have claimed.

Geologists at Yale University in the US predicted that the Americas and Asia will drift northward, closing off the Arctic and Caribbean Oceans, to merge around the North Pole and form a supercontinent called Amasia.

The research, published Thursday in the journal Nature, is a vivid reminder that the plates of the Earth`s crust are always moving and that one very far-off day, the world will be a very different place.

"This would lead to a collision with Europe and Asia, more or less at the present day North Pole," Yale geologist Ross Mitchell was quoted as saying by the `National Post`.

"Australia would also, according to our model, most likely continue its northward motion and snuggle up next to India."

The geologists believe that supercontinents – massive continents formed by other continents squishing together over millions of years -- form at 90 degrees from each other.

For their study, Mitchell and his colleagues analysed ancient rocks to create a map of their locations around the globe over time. They used that data to map how the Earth’s mantle causes continents to move over time.

They found that the formation of supercontinents follow a pattern. The last supercontinent Pangea -- which was formed 300 million years ago -- was preceded by as many as three others, Mitchell said.

Pangaea, where giant reptiles and dinosaurs arose, formed at 90 degrees to the Rodinia, the supercontinent before it, which in turn formed at 90 degrees to the supercontinent before it, Nuna.

The team called this model the "orthoversion". Until now, there have only been two models for how supercontinents form.

The first, called the introversion model, holds that supercontinents rip apart and come back together in roughly the same place, Mitchell said.

In this model, Mitchell said, the Atlantic would have been formed by a supercontinent ripping apart and would disappear again when the continents drifted back to their original formation.

The other model, called the extroversion model, theorises that when supercontinents come apart the individual continents travel around the globe to form a continent on the other side.

According to the new orthoversion model, the Caribbean and the Arctic oceans will be the first ones to disappear, the researchers said.

All this occurs because of continental drift - continents
move imperceptibly each year with the rate of movement varying
depending on the land mass.

According to the US Geological Survey, the Arctic Ridge has the slowest rate of movement, at 2.5 centimetres a year, and the East Pacific Rise near Easter Island has the fastest rate, at more than 15 centimetres per year.

PTI



First Published: Friday, February 10, 2012 - 21:21

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