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Will continents come back together and form a single landmass called supercontinent?
Question Date: 2018-07-24
Answer 1:

Since continents first formed on Earth, they have been engaged in a constant slow dance. At certain times in Earth history the various pieces of continental crust have bunched together into massive supercontinents, while at other times those supercontinents break apart into smaller fragments. We live during a time of continental fragmentation--with each continent "doing its own thing". Moving between Africa and South America today requires a long swim, but as recently as roughly 120 million years ago, it was possible to walk between those two landmasses.

The last supercontinent that existed was called Pangea (Pangaea--if you're English-speaker). It existed at roughly the time dinosaurs first came into existence, about 225 million years ago. The supercontinent before that, Rodinia, existed about a billion years ago. Given this repeated pattern of continental coming together and break up, we can predict that the next supercontinent is just a matter of time! Nothing for you or your grand kids to worry about, but still fascinating to ponder. Hope you're having a good summer!

Answer 2:

Yes, they most likely will! There are long chains of underwater volcanoes in the middle of every ocean basin - we call these mid-ocean ridges and they are what create new oceanic crust that pushes the continents around. Subduction zones are places where this oceanic crust is destroyed when it sinks into the mantle. The combination of these two processes is called plate tectonics and it results in the opening and closing of ocean basins, and therefore the "super continent cycle".

Geologists still aren't entirely sure when plate tectonics began on Earth, but many think it started between 2 and 3 billion years ago. So that means supercontinents have been created and broken apart over and over again since that time. You've probably heard of Pangea which formed about 300 million years ago when the east coast of North America collided with Africa, but several other super continents existed even before Pangea. "Rodinia" is the name of the supercontinent that formed about 1 billion years ago, and "Nuna" formed about 1.8 billion years ago.

Some geologists have tried to predict where and what the next supercontinent will be, but it's tricky. Right now we know that Africa is sloooowly moving north and crashing into Europe. We also know that the Caribbean sea and Arctic ocean are closing. So in 2012 some geologists proposed that the next supercontinent will form around the North Pole as the northern border of North America and Asia collide with the newly joined Africa and Europe. Poor Greenland will be sandwiched in between everyone. They named this continent "Amasia", but it probably won't form for another few hundred million years.

Answer 3:

Over time, the oceanic lithosphere, which mostly includes rocks bellow ocean bottoms, gradually grows colder as it becomes older. The lithosphere also becomes denser as well, so much so that it can sink into the Earth's mantle. The main process that causes this, called subduction, will then gradually remove oceanic lithosphere for the plates to move. Eventually, all the plates will come back together again like they did for Pangea and several other supercontinents before that.

Answer 4:

Scientists do expect that there will be supercontinents in the future, and there is evidence that several formed and broke apart in the past. Many are familiar with Pangea as the supercontinent on which dinosaurs arose, but it is likely that Pangea was only the most recent of several supercontinents. The next supercontinent expected to form is referred to as "Amasia". When it will form is difficult to predict, but estimates are 50-200 million years from now. There is also some discussion of this topic on ScienceLine here.

Answer 5:

Yes - a new supercontinent is forming as North America collides with Europe in the east and Asia in the west, Australia collides with Indonesia to the northwest, and Africa collides with Europe to the north. India has already collided with and become part of Asia. The only continents that will not be part of this new supercontinent are South America and Antarctica.

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