Thursday, February 24, 2005

Geo: Come Together

Is there another supercontinent—Pangaea Ultima—in our future? Christopher Scotese of the University of Texas at Austin is one geologist who thinks there is.

Connecticut was once smack in the middle of a vast former landmass known as Pangaea, when all of the world's continents were compressed together. Our central “rift” valley contains a record of a period of tumult that resulted as Pangaea later stretched and broke apart, over 200 million years ago.

New models of the motion of the earth’s plates suggest the continents are now slowing coming back together. Over the past tens of millions of years, Africa has migrated into Europe, raising the Alps and the Pyrenees, causing tremors from Italy to Turkey and compressing the Mediterranean to a fraction of its former size. Even Australia’s days as an isolated fragment of crust seem to be numbered, as it heads north toward Asia.

Scotese, renowned for the maps he has constructed of the earth in the deep past, can imagine a time, 250 million years in the future, when the movements of continental crust will assemble a new supercontinent, one he has dubbed "Pangaea Ultima." No word yet on what the effect may be on real estate values.

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