TechA supercontinent will form on Earth. Pangea Ultima may resemble a science-fiction novel

A supercontinent will form on Earth. Pangea Ultima may resemble a science-fiction novel

Pangea - this is what the last supercontinent looked like.
Pangea - this is what the last supercontinent looked like.
Images source: © Getty Images | Ianm35

12:53 PM EDT, September 27, 2023, updated: 7:02 AM EDT, October 25, 2023

Scientists, using models of our future climate, were able to determine what awaits humanity in several hundred million years. According to them, after the creation of a new supercontinent, Pangea Ultima, which will unite all currently existing continents, extreme climatic phenomena will intensify. All of this could lead to the extinction of mammals living on Earth, including humans.

The results of the latest research, which appeared in the pages of the journal "Nature Geoscience", are not optimistic. It suggests that in about 250 million years, all currently existing continents may merge into a single supercontinent - Pangea Ultima, located in the tropical region of the Earth along the equator. The new land will be dotted with volcanoes, releasing a significant amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Pangea Ultima - a supercontinent that will cause quite a stir

This, in conjunction with a greater amount of solar energy (approx. 2.5 percent compared to the current situation of our planet) reaching the surface, will likely make the prevailing conditions unfriendly for mammals, who are not adapted to cope with long-term exposure to excessive heat. According to researchers, it is possible that this could lead to a "climate critical point" that would cause a mass extinction of terrestrial mammals, including humans.

This is not the first time a supercontinent, a massive landmass formed by shifting tectonic plates, has formed on our planet. The Smithsonian Magazine reminds us that about 200 million years ago, the last existing supercontinent, Pangea, broke apart. This began the formation of the seven continents that we know today. Apparently, in about 250 million years, our world will undergo another change. According to scientists from the University of Bristol, Pangea's successor, Pangea Ultima, might look like this:

This is what our planet could look like in about 250 million years.
This is what our planet could look like in about 250 million years.© University in Bristol

A simulation of the future of our planet was created

Scientists base their assumptions on climate models, developed with the help of so-called supercomputers and special programs. As explained by CNN, they incorporate simulations of trends related to temperature, wind, rain, humidity prevailing on the supercontinent, models of tectonic plate movements, as well as data on the chemistry and biology of the oceans. They also took into account the fact that in about 250 million years, the Sun may shine about 2.5 percent brighter. In this way, experts have estimated what the climate will be like on Pangaea Ultima, as well as how much carbon dioxide may be released into the atmosphere. It is worth noting that in the model, researchers did not take into account greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans.

Science Service explains that, assuming the lower limit of the predicted range of carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere, the average global temperature would rise to 20.9°C, i.e. by about 5.5°C compared to the current temperature. On the other hand, assuming the most extreme scenario with higher carbon dioxide emissions, the average global temperature would rise to 24.8°C, i.e. by about 9.4°C compared to the current temperature.

Scientists believe that after the formation of the new supercontinent Pangaea Ultima, only 8 to 16 percent of the land would be habitable for mammals. For comparison, about 66 percent of the surface of our planet was suitable for mammals before the appearance of climate changes caused by human activity.

Therefore, co-author of the study, Dr. Eunice Lo, emphasizes that "it is extremely important not to lose sight of the current climate crisis, which is the result of greenhouse gas emissions by humans". As she points out, even though in about 250 million years our planet may not be habitable, "we are already experiencing extreme heat that is harmful to human health". "That's why it's so important to achieve net zero emissions as soon as possible" - emphasizes Dr. Lo.

At the same time, experts do not rule out that humans and other mammals in the future will find ways to adapt to the changes taking place and will be able to live on Pangea Ultima. The Nature service publishes that Farnsworth compares the future Earth to the science fiction novel "Dune" from 1965. He adds that among the options for humans are, among others, greater adaptation to desert environments, switching to a nocturnal lifestyle, or moving life into caves. However, the expert emphasizes: "I suspect that if we could leave this planet and find a more suitable place to live, it would be more beneficial".

See also