|How tectonic plate movement could create another
supercontinent like Pangaea?|
|Question Date: 2017-11-09|
Tectonic plates shift, and some can even dive
under other tectonic plates. We call the
process of one plate moving beneath another
Oceanic parts of plates, like what we find in the
Atlantic, are generally heavier and subduct more
easily. That's why new crust which forms under the
sea doesn't last as long as crust on land does. So
subduction destroys large oceans and reunites
continents. For instance, Europe and North
America are moving away from each other now, but,
in the future, there's a good chance that
subduction might start again and close all of the
Think of the continents as being much less dense
material than the stuff (the mantle) that they're
floating on, like a bunch of air mattresses in a
swimming pool. The air mattresses get carried
around by the wind and currents in the pool.
Sometimes they bunch together, and sometimes they
all float separately. Similarly, the continents
get shoved around (either by "currents" in the
mantle, or the tugging of plates caused at
subduction zones--where plates sink).
Over Earth's history, sometimes continents
(which are parts of plates) clump together
(Pangea, for example), and sometimes they're
separate, like today.
Enjoy studying plate tectonics!
Pangaea is not the only supercontinent that
Earth has seen throughout its lifetime .
Geologists aren't exactly sure how many we've had,
but most geologists agree that there have been
at least 4 throughout Earth's history. Once
plate tectonics started on our Earth, it has
continuously pushed and pulled the continents
apart. Since plate tectonics is still
happening, this means that there will be another
supercontinent in the future . Right now,
the Atlantic ocean is growing and the Pacific
ocean is shrinking. This means that in the
future, North America may smash into Asia - some
geologists call this continent "Amasia". The west
coast of the US and the east coast of China may
become a new mountain range like the Himalayas.
However, we don't know for certain, and lots of
scientists are still researching this.
Tectonic plates are in the earth just below the
crust. Their movement causes the crust to move --
this changes the position of the continents, and
oceans. Depending which direction the plates
move they might cause continents to collide.
Earth scientists model the plate movement to
predict how the continents will be positioned in
the future. They would all have to move towards
each other for another supercontinent to form.
Although it would take a long time to make
another supercontinent because they only move a
few inches per year!
A new supercontinent is forming now. Africa
is moving northward into Europe, Australia is
moving northwest into Asia, and North America is
moving north toward the Arctic Ocean, and in the
process colliding with Asia in Siberia and with
Europe in the north Atlantic. This leaves out
South America and Antarctica, of which South
America is moving west and will tear away from
North America, and Antarctica is just sitting
there over the south pole, but the other
continents will become one big continent in the
next few tens of millions of years.
Scientists have written about this - a new
super-continent like Pangea might form in 250
There's a wikipedia article about this:
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