Over the course of 200 or 250 million years, our planet will look completely different from today as all current continents unite into a new "supercontinent". Researchers Mattias Grīns (University of Bangor, UK) and Hanna Sophia Davies and Joao C. Duarte (University of Lisbon, Portugal) write in detail on The Conversation on how this process is alike.
From the outset, experts explain that the tectonic plates that make up the Earth's crust are constantly moving at a few centimeters a year. This means that from time to time, geologically, the continents unite into the supercontinent, which is shared by the hundreds of millions of years before the split.
Last supercontinent Pangea, was created some 310 million years ago and began to separate about 180 million years ago. It is expected that the next will be about 200 or 250 million years. The collapse fueled the formation of the Atlantic, which still opens and expands, while the Pacific Ocean closes and shrinks. The authors also recall that the Ring of Fire is home to the Pacific Ocean, while the Atlantic is just two.
According to researchers, there are four essential scenarios for the next supercontinent formation: Novopanja, Pangea Ultima, Aurica and Amasia.
Experts say that maintaining the current conditions – with the opening of the Atlantic and the Pacific's decline – the next supercontinent will form on the opposite side of the old Pangea. In America, there will be a collision with the Antarctic, which will move north, and then with those who have already joined Africa and Eurasia, to create the so-called Novopangas.
If the expansion of the Atlantic is slowed down and begins to close, its two small subduction arcs could extend along the east coast of America, leading to the rest of Pangea. America, Europe and Africa will again gather in the super-continent, now called Pangea Ultima, which is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean.
On the other hand, if new demersal zones appear in the Atlantic, both oceans could be closed, and a new ocean basin should be created to replace them.
In this scenario, to create this new ocean, open the whole Asian crack that currently crosses Asia from West India to the Arctic. The result would be the formation of Aurica super-continents, centered around Australia, which is currently drifting north.
Finally, the fourth scenario provides "a completely different future for the Earth," researchers point out. In this regard, they emphasize that several tectonic plates, including Africa and Australia, are currently moving north, and the process is probably due to the poor position that Pangea left on Earth's inheritance. So you can imagine a scenario in which all the continents, except Antarctica, continue to move north until they join the supercontinent of the Pole, which has the hypothetical name Amasia.
Which scenario is most likely?
Scientists suggest that Novopang is the most likely scenario, because it is a logical development of current trends, while the other three cases involve additional process engagement.