Earth Day 2014: Imagining Earth Day 250 million years from now
For Earth Day 2014, NASA released this fresh image of our big blue marble. A world that can be perilous and filled with turmoil is the picture of tranquillity, when viewed from many miles away.
What would that view have been like 250 million years ago, when our separate continents formed one big blob? The theory of supercontinent Pangea holds that the Earth's continents were incorporated into a single mass surrounded by a global ocean.
After about 100 million years, the mass began to separate and break apart due to the work of plate tectonics. But while it existed, Pangea was no picnic.
That massive hunk of land absorbed summer's heat, and temperatures plunged in winter, Discovery.com surmises. Temperature changes meant air pressure swings and, consequently, extreme weather patterns.
That's 250 million years in the past. Look 250 million years into the future, and imagine the changes that will have taken place on our planet.
As NASA said in 2000: "Africa is going to smash into Europe .... Meanwhile the Atlantic Ocean will probably widen for a spell before it reverses course and later disappears."
Below, we labeled the land masses to give you an idea where home may eventually wind up in the supercontinent dubbed Pangea Ultima by geologist Christopher Scotese.
(Pangea and Pangea Ultima by L.A. Times graphics artist Raoul Ranoa.)
The supercontinent cycle theorizes this movement of continents has happened throughout history, with Pangea only the latest aggregation. Another theory of future Earth has the continents, moved along by the Earth's plates, congregating on the opposite side of the globe from where Pangea was, bumping up together in the center of what is now the Pacific Ocean.
Then there's "Amasia," a supercontinent that would occur at the top of the Earth, joining the Americas with Eurasia, as a 2012 NPR story describes.
It's fascinating to contemplate. For the present, however, we have our separate continents, as well as the shared crises of our immediate future.
Climate change and global warming have become the environmental catchphrases of the early 2000s, compounding uncertainties as temperatures rise:
And Arctic sea ice disappears:
You don't have to wait for the continents to merge, you can do something today to affect our immediate future.
The Environmental Protection Agency has a whole month's worth of tips on how to "ActOnClimate": take a shower instead of a bath, change out five lights and program your thermostat are among the easy, common-sense suggestions.
Get started: Dispose of your unused, toxic tech products. From the L.A. Times' Home section, here's where to dispose of e-waste in the L.A. area.
Follow me at @AmyTheHub and I hope to see you on Amasia.
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