Meet Amasia, the Next Supercontinent

by Sid Perkins

Over the next few hundred million years, the Arctic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea will disappear, and Asia will crash into the Americas forming a supercontinent that will stretch across much of the Northern Hemisphere. That’s the conclusion of a new analysis of the movements of these giant landmasses.

Unlike in today’s world, where a variety of tectonic plates move across Earth’s surface carrying the bits of crust that we recognize as continents, ancient Earth was home to supercontinents, which combined most if not all major landmasses into one. Previous studies suggest that supercontinents last about 100 million years or so before they break apart, setting the pieces adrift to start another cycle.

The geological record reveals that in the past 2 billion years or so, there have been three supercontinents, says Ross Mitchell, a geophysicist at Yale University. The oldest known supercontinent, Nuna, came together about 1.8 billion years ago. The next, Rodinia, existed about 1 billion years ago, and the most recent, Pangaea, came together about 300 million years ago. In the lengthy intervals between supercontinents, continent-sized-and-smaller landmasses drifted individually via plate tectonics, as they do today…

(read: Science NOW)    

(image: 100 million years from now, adapted from Mitchell et al., Nature)

Murasaki tinha um apreço muito grande por listas. Ela gostava de fazer listas das coisas que tinha de fazer, listas de coisas que tinha de comprar, listas de coisas pra ler, listas de listas para ter certeza de não esquecer nenhuma… Não é a toa que ela não tem muitos amigos. 

Naquele dia era uma lista de compras. Murasaki preferia não ter que fazer muitas idas ao centro de Amasia, pois considerava o passeio estressante e um gasto de tempo desnecessário, então costumava fazer muitas compras de uma vez só para não ter que repetir a viagem muitas vezes. Sua lista era bem grande para alguém que morava sozinha, mas, considerando que fazia quase dois meses desde a última vez. 

Aquele não era um dia muito movimentado, o que no fundo não queria dizer muita coisa, afinal mesmo o dia mais quieto no mercado era cheio de transeuntes. Ainda assim, Murasaki andava por aí lendo a lista de compras para ter certeza de que não tinha esquecido de anotar nada e a única coisa que a impedia de atropelar as outras pessoas era Mashiro, que andava ao seu lado e a empurrava para longe do caminho sempre que ela estava próxima de tombar em alguém ou alguma coisa.

Fifty million to 200 million years from now, geologists expect Earth’s continents to smash together into one big supercontinent, just as they’ve done repeatedly in our planet’s distant past — and a new computer model suggests that the Arctic Ocean and Caribbean Sea will be among the first things to go.

Change is the only constant. I have to keep reminding myself of that sometimes. As it was before, it will be again: the continents of Earth will come together into a massive supercontinent. The land, the earth—something that seems and feels immutable—flows and floats above an incomprehensible ocean of fire. The model mentioned above projects that in an unimaginable span of time the continents will group around the North Pole as the supercontinent ‘Amasia.’