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What Were Earth's Continents Like and What Will They Become?

By 4 3

Earth is one of the most geologically interesting celestial bodies because of its ever-changing surface and mysterious past.

Before you read, there is some vocabulary you should know. First, a supercontinent is, usually, an enormous land mass that makes up most of the Earth's. Next, and lastly, continental drift is the movement of land masses on Earth.

Throughout Earth's history many unique supercontinents spring up, and all of them never witnessed by a human eye. While continental drift occurs quickly in a geological sense, it does not compared to human lifespans. Soon you will become familiar with some of the oldest supercontinents in Earth's history.

The Earth at First: Vaalbaara and Ur

The Earth's first supercontinent was called Vaalbaara, it sprung up about 3.5 billion years ago. Vaalbaara is more of a speculation, but many geologist have found much evidence that point towards its existence. This tiny supercontinent would have been extremely small compared to the others in history because it had come from a smaller mass of very old earth called a craton. Yet, it would still be a supercontinent because it was the only land mass in existence. Bellow is a picture of what Vaalbaara would be when it was just starting.

Vaalbara

Next is Ur. Ur is a little more certain to geologists than Vaalbara because it was the longest existing land mass till Pangea split and Ur was obscured. Ur is about 3 billion years old, and is not much bigger than Vaalbara, but still a supercontinent because it was all alone on a big blue Earth. Ur would have looked a lot similar to Vaalbara as seen above.

Kenorland

Kenorland, the next supercontinent, would form about 2.7 billion years ago, and be significantly bigger than Vaalbara or Ur, but not big compared to the current continents combined. "It comprised most of modern US and Canada, Greenland, the Scandinavian countries, western Australia, and what is now the Kalahari Desert, which stretches over much of southern Africa"(Wilkins 1). Kenorland broke up about 2.6 billion years ago, and increased the amount of rainfall of Earth significantly. This increase in rainfall reduced the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, thus plummeting the temperature, and turning earth into a frozen planet. It goes to show how the breakup of a supercontinent can have critical effects on the climate an environment. Kenorland can be seen below.

Kenorland

Columbia and Rodinia

Columbia formed about 1.8 billion years ago, and was the first actual supercontinent because it had a total land mass of 50 million square kilometers. Our total land mass today is 150 million square kilometers, so Columbia was 1\3 of modern total land mass, while Vaalbara, Ur, and Kenorland were only extremely small fractions of modern total land mass. As you may be able to tell already, information about the supercontinents discussed is getting more detailed as we get closer to modern times.

Rodinia formed about 1 billion years ago from remains of Columbia and more pieces of the crust rising up. Geologists do not know the size, but know it was big. It started dividing about 550 million years ago, this would be a very critical event in Earth's long history. 

When Rodinia broke up it again turned Earth into an icy planet, but rose the sea floor, and allowed for volcanoes to erupt in the ocean. These eruptions would fuel life, and the shallower oceans would allow for ocean life to move onto land. Rodinia can be seen bellow.

Rodinia

Pangea, and Ponnotia?

Ponnotia is a supercontinent that was apparently between Rodinia and Pangea. This landmass is still debated today, but in theory lasted for 60 million years.

Pangea was formed from the breakup of Ponnotia, and is Earth's most recent supercontinent. Pangea is 245 million years ago and would break up 100 million years later. Pangea is where all the most recent continents are derived from. Pangea can be seen below.

Pangea

The Future

As I imagined, you may want to know what the Earth will be like later, thus I posted some videos and pictures to explain and describe the theories many geologists have.

The Future

A Walk Through the Phases

An Overview of the Article

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Comments

Sep 25, 2014 8:40am
othellos
Very detailed and informative article.
Sep 27, 2014 1:56pm
Dash
Good stuff, very interesting!
Nov 27, 2014 2:52pm
Caledor
Feels like I was reading about old mythology with all the terms (do not mean it in a bad way)..Really cool article
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