I draw galaxies and the planet earth quite a bit and one day I noticed that when I greatly simplify the shape of the continents, they look an awful lot like galaxies. Since I believe Mother Nature loves curvature (being a female) I thought maybe continental drift likes to have a certain amount of rotation.
By WILLIAM J. BROAD
Published: January 9, 2007
Kiss the Mediterranean goodbye. Ditto the Red Sea and its wonderland of coral reefs and exotic sea life. And prepare for the day when San Francisco has a gritty new suburb: Los Angeles. Indeed, much of Southern California, including the Baja Peninsula, will eventually migrate up the west coast to make Alaska even more gargantuan.
Geologists have long prided themselves on their ability to peer into the distant past and discern the slow movements of land and sea that have continuously revised the planet’s face over eons. Now, drawing on new insights, theories, measurements and technologies — and perhaps a bit of scientific bravado — they are forecasting the shape of terra firma in the distant future.
The maps and animations by these scientists are helping explain core principles of geology to increasingly wide audiences. Schools, textbooks, museums, Web sites and television shows now routinely feature images of what the forecasters say the planet will look like eons from now. And geologists are using the forecasts to deepen their own investigations of plate tectonics.
CLICK ON ALL IMAGES TO ENLARGE
&hearts Click here to see the New York Times interactive maps.
Here is the NYT conception of what the earth looked like in the past. The mega-continental mass was breaking apart for some reason we still can't fathom. Note the raw appearance of the continents: already, they are assuming a shape that many rotating objects take on when moving in some direction.
Here is the way they think the earth might look in the future. Of course, this is all raw guesswork. I have looked at 'past/future' maps all my life, they amuse me greatly. I also like jigsaw puzzles and I was a child when the concept of tectonic plate movement was first being developed.
Because my father worked closely with geologists to find good mountains for telescopes, we got to know quite a few. When I was young, one of my dearest friend's father, Dr. Damon of the University of Arizona, was kind enough to share the exciting developments within this field with us as professors debated the data.
As an avid puzzle player, I noticed quite early on how the earth is shaped like a puzzle that had been pulled apart...and ROTATED. Namely, the pieces didn't fly away from each other, they rotated away.
&hearts Click here to see yet a different examination of this same data leading to a radically different outcome compared to the NYT article or the U of W website. I will note how everyone has Australia going in all sorts of directions. This is significant because the fastest moving continent right now is good old Australia. The pad it is riding on protects it from damage as it plows merrily north but all around it is very, very geologically active with volcanic islands springing up and the world's nastiest volcanoes and rifts creating havoc.
The way I look at it, the fact that the most active mountain building going on is the long chain of islands of Indonesia and the Guineas along with the Philippines. Perhaps the resistance of the Asian landmass is causing the Australian plate which is much larger than the continent which is why Australia itself sees virtually no earthquakes or volcanoes, is forcing the outer shelf of the continent to rotate away even as it moves north. Because there is little in the way of the east wing of this big, mostly underwater plate, this means the east edge will move faster than the west edge and thus, the continent will rotate until northern Australia faces totally west and the east is facing Alaska. The massive mountain building along the east face of Asia will accelerate and mountains higher than the Himalayas will rise where Japan now sits.
The idea that the Australian continent will glide up to Alaska is wrong. And the idea that it will shove into Indonesia is wrong. Indonesia will curl around what is the west side of Australia today, it will be the south side in 100 million years.
Since the earth is a big puzzle that gets shaken about a bit, I cut out some very simplified shapes of the various continental masses and laid them on a towel and rotated them about as if they were moving around the earth. This being flat meant it is all very distorted, of course. But this sequence shows yet another possible future for the geography of the earth.
Earth 300 million years ago was a super-continent with lots of shallow seas and a number of spectacular rift valleys which demark the coming breaking lines of the individual continents.
After the Permian extinction and the comet/meteorite strike on Antarctica, the continents sped away from each other.
Rotating, the sharp edges began to strike each other so instead of being snug up against each other with long rift valleys snaking along their joints, the tips hit each other.
This is the earth in the future: scientists think everything will rejoin in new directions. This example I used show North America curling around to the north and restriking Europe from a different angle as before. South America crunches the Gulf of Mexico and shoves North America further north.
And this is the result, 100+ million years into the future.
I didn't deal with the rift valleys in this model, for example, because it is very simplified. But I do notice none of the professional models make any notice of them, either! For example, it is pretty obvious that Saudi Arabia is acting like a big knife on Africa's northeast corner and it is peeling away a large hunk of that continent which is moving eastwards, away from the bulk of Africa which is moving into the Mediterranean. The sharp rock-hard point of Spain prevents Africa from moving north easily so it is tending to rotate into Saudi Arabia which is why it is being split asunder.
The world's greatest rift valley is where we humans evolved.
The smaller but still very big rift valley in California is often ignored, I suspect for psycholgical reasons. LA is NOT going to move to San Francisco, it is going to split off from the continent to become a long island chain that will glide northwards. The real question here is, will North America continue to move westards? If we do, we slam into Asia. If we do this, we will rotate clockwise until the west coast is facing northwest and Florida ends up around where Hawaii now resides. This is just as possible as the other choices, especially if Australia curls around and hits Asia, too. Then Australia's west coast will end up facing north to our southwest facing them! Kangaroos in Texas, yahoo.
If South America also continues west, it will snug up against Australia. The Andes will be even bigger and denser by then and Australia will cease being stable and will probably tilt upwars, sort of like Tibet.
All our our guesses about the far future should take into account the lack of certainty since we are only guessing as to what dynamos deep in the earth are doing this to us. Why is Australia taking off and moving rapidly while Antarctica is so relatively stationary? Or is it?
The great quakes along the Antarctic plate may be a sign, it too is ready to travel north. Perhaps the giant ice sheet pinned it down for a long time and is now releasing it? Is this what is propelling Australia north with such unseemly haste? Is Antarctica shoving South America to the west? This would mean it intends to move north towards India. Penguins in New Delhi.
This is why the ecosystem constantly changes. Aside from human meddling and astronomical space junk wrecking things.