Video: Continental Drift in Deep Time

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Our Video Sunday feature continues with this simulation of future continental drift. It looks like the world is coming together with the exception of Australia, which seems to be heading off to own corner of the planet. This simulation is derived from Supercontinent cycles and the calculation of absolute palaeolongitude in deep time, a Nature Journal paper authored by Ross N. Mitchell, Taylor M. Kilian & David A. D. Evans.

Traditional models of the supercontinent cycle predict that the next supercontinent—‘Amasia’—will form either where Pangaea rifted (the ‘introversion’ model) or on the opposite side of the world (the ‘extroversion’ models). Here, by contrast, we develop an ‘orthoversion’ model whereby a succeeding supercontinent forms 90° away, within the great circle of subduction encircling its relict predecessor. A supercontinent aggregates over a mantle downwelling but then influences global-scale mantle convection to create an upwelling under the landmass. We calculate the minimum moment of inertia about which oscillatory true polar wander occurs owing to the prolate shape of the non-hydrostatic Earth,