In 250 million years a single supercontinent will form that will wipe out almost all mammals: modeling study


In 250 million years a single supercontinent will form that will wipe out almost all mammals

Figure 1 of the study shows the average temperature of the warmest month (degrees Celsius) for Earth and the hypothetical supercontinent, Pangea Ultima, 250 million years from now, which the researchers hypothesize would make the life of most mammals were extremely difficult. Credit: University of Bristol

TO recent study published in Nature Geoscience uses supercomputer climate models to examine how a supercontinent, called Pangea Ultima (also called Pangea Proxima), which will form in 250 million years, will cause extreme temperatures, making this new supercontinent uninhabitable for life, specifically mammals .

This study was carried out by an international team of researchers led by the University of Bristol and has the potential to help scientists better understand how the Earth’s climate could change in the distant future from natural processes, as opposed to climate change. climate.

It is estimated that Earth’s temperatures will increase dramatically within 250 million years due to two reasons: increased volcanism due to merging all the continents and our sun emitting more energy and heat as it ages. While volcanoes act as moderators by releasing carbon dioxide and naturally warming the planet, too much volcanism results in too much , which causes drastic increases in temperature. Additionally, like mammals, our sun also grows with age and, as it grows, it gives off more heat and energy.

“The newly emerged would effectively create a triple whammy, comprising the continentality effect, a hotter sun and more CO2 in the atmosphere, from increasing heat across much of the planet,” said Dr. Alexander Farnsworth, senior research associate at the University of Bristol and lead author of the study.

“The result is a largely hostile environment, devoid of food and water sources for mammals. Widespread temperatures of between 40 and 50 degrees Celsius, and even greater daily temperature extremes, compounded by high levels of humidity, would ultimately seal our fate. “Humans, along with many other species, would die due to their inability to eliminate this heat through sweat, cooling their bodies.”

For the study, researchers used computer climate models to simulate Pangea Ultima’s environmental conditions, including humidity, rainfall, wind and temperature. They also determined the initial and final CO.2 levels based on biology, ocean chemistry and tectonic processes. In the end, they found that only between 8% and 16% of Pangea Ultima’s total land mass will remain habitable for mammals, and although the human cause It is estimated that the Earth’s temperature will increase over time, it is assumed that the Earth will remain habitable until the creation of Pangea Ultima.

The reason mammals, including humans, have survived for so long on Earth is due to their amazing ability to adapt to extreme weather conditions. However, although evolution has resulted in mammals being able to reduce their survival limit in , they cannot increase their survival limit in warm temperatures. This means that as Earth’s temperatures continue to rise, the likelihood of mammals surviving in these new conditions will be unlikely.

“The outlook for the distant future looks very bleak,” Dr. Farnsworth said. “Carbon dioxide levels could double current levels. Given that the Sun is also expected to emit about 2.5% more radiation and that the supercontinent is located primarily in the hot, humid tropics, much of the planet could face temperatures between 40 ° C and 70 ° C. This work also highlights that a world within the so-called ‘‘A solar system may not be the most hospitable to humans depending on whether the continents are spread out, as we are today, or in one large supercontinent.’

While Pangea Ultima could dominate Earth within 250 million years, it won’t be the first supercontinent to appear on Earth’s surface in the planet’s history. Scientists hypothesize that 10 supercontinents have existed throughout Earth’s history, with the best known being Pangea, the most recent supercontinent to exist. The reason all of these supercontinents have existed throughout Earth’s roughly 4.5 billion year history is because since the Earth’s surface is divided into seven major and eight minor plates that collide and subduct one under the other during vast geological periods.

More information:
Alexander Farnsworth et al, Climate extremes likely to drive extinction of terrestrial mammals during next supercontinent assembly, Nature Geoscience (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41561-023-01259-3

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