To know what the planet was like hundreds of millions of years ago, when there were for example a large supercontinent named Pangea, paleogeographers use tools that simulate tectonics, volcanism or the construction of mountains. With the help of a software they can study the movement of the plates or the behavior of ocean currents.
Years ago, Douwe van Hinsbergen, a professor at the University of Utrecht, decided to answer an interesting question: Could these tools, the same ones that serve to recreate the past, be used in future projections? Can you help us imagine what the world will be like in hundreds of millions of years, as they clarify, for example, the origin of the mountain ranges?
A “recipe” for building mountain ranges
The surprising result has just been disclosed through an article published in The Conversation Y a two minute video. The answer, go ahead, is yes. And it leaves striking results. After applying rules to predict geological architecture and starting from the premise that Somalia, as expected, will separate from Africa and collide with Madagascar and India, experts predicted a mountain belt that will form in the next 200 million years.
The job, Van Hinsbergen himself details on the Utrecht University website, shows what the mountain ranges will be like “in the next supercontinent, in about 200 million years, where Somalia, Madagascar and India will collide with each other, thus creating the Somalaya Mountains. “” The resulting mountain range could be the Himalayas of its time. And seeing such similarities between Somalaya and the mountains known today can provide us with possible solutions that we had never thought of for paleogeographic evolution, “he reflects. the expert.
“For example, according to our research, a mountain belt can form in the bay between Madagascar and Africa, and it would be strongly curved much like the Eastern European Carpathians or the Banda islands of Indonesia and Timor –Global Tectonics Professor abounds -. Northwest India would first be buried deep 50 km or so below Somalia; but then Somalia would rotate and northwestern India would re-emerge. It is a geological story that looks a lot like western Norway about 400 million years ago”.
The model, developed by Van Hinsbergen and his doctoral student Thomas Schouten, suggests that the Indian Ocean subducts – a process that involves the sinking of a lithospheric plate under the edge of another plate – as Somalia breaks away from the Great Valley of the Rift in Africa and moves towards India. “To do this, we had to formulate a series of rules to determine which chunks of today’s Indian Ocean, which includes several mini-continents such as the Seychelles, would and which would not break off, and how India, Somalia and Madagascar would be deformed“, need.
The proof, an “interesting thought experiment”, in the words of Van Hinsbergen himselfThis was achieved thanks to a kind of “rules for the construction of mountains”. “In a sense, you take out what you put in. In the case of the Somalaya, it could also be that Madagascar disappears under India and not the other way around. In any case, a high mountain range will form in that place,” he acknowledges.
Beyond opening a hypothetical window to what the planet will be like in hundreds of millions of years or stimulating our imagination, the experiment has interesting practical applications. For example, it helps scientists understand today’s mountain ranges much better.
“If they are correct, we can use the reconstructions of the past to predict how the mountain ranges are now structured and where the minerals are found,” Utrecht expert details. The rules also offer a “springboard”, in the words of the institution, for future studies on the origin of minerals, earthquakes or climatic changes recorded in the past.
Images | Utrecht University