Tectonic plates covering the Earth are moving like a jigsaw puzzle at the same speed as our nails, but over a billion years that’s enough to travel across the entire planet – as a great new video shows.
In one of the most complete models of tectonic plate motions ever assembled, scientists condensed a billion years of motion into a 40-second video, so we can see how these giant rock plates interacted over time.
As they move, the plates influence the climate, tidal patterns, animal movements and evolution, volcanic activity, mineral production and more: they are more than just a cover for the planet, they are the life support system that affects everything that lives on the surface.
“For the first time a complete model of tectonics has been built, including all frontiers,” said geologist Michael Tetley, who completed his PhD at the University of Sydney. Euronews.
“On a human timescale, things move in centimeters per year, but as we can see from the animation, the continents were everywhere in time. A place like Antarctica that we see today is a cold, icy place inhospitable, it was once calm. A beautiful vacation destination on the equator. “
Moving and sliding panels is a great sight if you check out the video – land masses close to neighbors become cousins at a distance and vice versa, and you might be surprised at how recently countries and continents have settled in situations we know today.
Understanding these movements and patterns is crucial if scientists want to predict how habitable our planet will be in the future, and where we will find the mineral resources we need to ensure a clean energy future.
Platelet motion is estimated by studying the geological – magnetic record that provides data on the historical locations of the pillars in relation to the Earth’s rotation axis and the types of material trapped in rock samples that help match previous geological puzzle pieces together.
Here the team has gone to great lengths to select and incorporate the most appropriate models currently available, looking at both the motions of the continents and the interactions along the plate boundaries.
“Planet Earth is incredibly dynamic, as its surface consists of plates that are constantly jammed together in a unique way between known rocky planets.” Says geologist Sabine ZhirovicFrom the University of Sydney.
“These plates move as fast as fingernails grow, but when a billion years condense to 40 seconds, an enchanting dance appears. The oceans open and close, and the continents divide and combine periodically to form enormous gigantic continents.”
The more scientists go into the past, the more difficult it becomes to estimate how the plates moved, in which case it becomes an estimate Neoproterozoic to me Cambrian (1000 to 520 million years ago) in particular, the eras have been carefully planned and in-line to match the most recent records we have.
Questions remain about how and when these plates first formed, but each new data point helps us understand Earth’s ancient history – even counting the missing plates in some models.
Scientists admit that their work lacks some subtle detail – spanning as much as the entire planet and billions of years – but they hope it will serve as a useful resource and basis for the future study of these motions and their impact on everything else on this planet.
“Our team has created a completely new model of Earth’s evolution over the past billion years,” Says geologist Dietmar MullerFrom the University of Sydney.
“Our planet is unique in the way it hosts life. But this is only possible because geological processes, such as plate tectonics, provide a system to support life on planet Earth.”
The research has been published in Earth Science Reviews.