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Monday, February 13, 2012

Nuna - Rodinia - Pangaea - Amasia

The interior view of the planet makes EarthView an excellent place to learn about plate tectonics. The plate boundaries shown inside highlight zones of convergence such as the Pacific Ring of Fire and zones of new creation, such as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the African Rift Valley. We can see that when two continental plates collide, as the Indian subcontinent continues to do with the rest of Asia, impressive orogeny (mountain-building) can result.

What we see now is a result of the greatest break-up since the Beatles (actually, it predates the Beatles by quite a bit) -- the transformation of the Pangaea into Laurasia and Gondwanaland, and eventually into the continents we know today.

This leads many EarthView visitors to ask, "What's next?" In other words, will the continents eventually drift into each other again, or will they all be subducted into the mantle? None of us will be around to see the answer, of course, but Ross Mitchell at Yale posits that 100,000,000 years from now, Amasia will coalesce around the present North Pole. If so, it would be the fourth supercontinent to form at roughly a 90 degree angle away from the most "recent" one, as Nuna, Rodinia, and Pangaea have in the distant past.

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