Watch a billion years of plate tectonics change in an enchanting 40 seconds: ScienceAlert

The tectonic plates covering the Earth move like a jigsaw puzzle at the same speed as our fingernails, but over the course of a billion years, that’s enough to travel across the entire planet — as a fascinating video reveals.

In one of the most complete models of tectonic plate motions ever assembled, scientists in 2021 condensed a billion years of motion into a 40-second video, so we can see how these giant plates of rock have interacted over time.

As they move, the plates influence climate, tidal patterns, animal movements and evolution, volcanic activity, mineral production, and more: they are more than just a planet’s cover, they are the life support system that influences everything that lives on the surface.

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Geologist Michael Tetley, who completed his PhD at the University of Sydney, explained that “for the first time a complete model of tectonics, including all boundaries, has been built.” euronews in 2021.

“On a human time scale, things move in centimeters per year, but as we can see from the animation, the continents were all over the place in time. A place like Antarctica that we see today is a cold, icy inhospitable place that was actually once a The days are calm and a beautiful vacation destination at the equator.”

Moving and sliding the plates is an amazing sight if you watch the video – land masses that are close to neighbors become distant cousins ​​and vice versa, and you might be surprised how recently countries and continents have settled into the situations we know today.

Understanding these movements and patterns is critical if scientists are 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.

Plate motion is estimated by studying the geomagnetic record that provides data on the historical locations of the pillars in relation to the Earth’s spin axis and the types of material trapped in the rock samples that help match pieces of past geological puzzles together.

Here the team went to great lengths to select and combine the most suitable models currently available, considering both continental motions and interactions along plate boundaries.

“Planet Earth is incredibly dynamic, with its surface made up of plates that are constantly jostling each other in a way that is unique among the known rocky planets,” Geologist Sabine Zhirovic saidfrom the University of Sydney.

“These plates move as fast as fingernails grow, but when they condense a billion years in 40 seconds, an enchanting dance is revealed. The oceans open and close, and the continents periodically separate and combine to form the enormous supercontinents.”

The more scientists go into the past, the more difficult it becomes to estimate how the plates move, in which case it becomes an estimate Neoproterozoic to me Cambrian (1000 to 520 million years ago) In particular, the ages have been carefully plotted and lined up to match the more recent records we have.

Questions remain about how and when these plates first formed, but each new data point helps us understand the ancient history of the Earth — even accounting for the missing plates in some models.

The scientists admit that their work lacks some fine detail – as spanning across the entire planet and a billion years – but they hope it will serve as a useful resource and basis for future study of these movements and their impact on everything else on the planet.

“Our team has created an entirely new model of Earth’s evolution over the past billion years,” Geologist Dietmar Müller said: from 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 life-support system on the planet.”

The search was published in Earth Science Reviews.

An earlier version of this article was published in February 2021.

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