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Continents Act Like Thermal Blankets: How ContinentalDrift Will Change Continents In 120 Million Years

Distribution of the continents in 120 million years. (Credit: Image courtesy of Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres)

1 of 311/28/10 9:08 AM

ScienceDaily (Jan. 30, 2009) — Drifting of the large tectonic plates and the superimposed continents is notonly powered by the heat-driven convection processes in the Earth's mantle, but rather retroacts on this internal driving processes. In doing so, the continents function as a thermal blanket, whichleads to an accumulation of heat underneath, and which in turn can cause the break-up of the supercontinents. Alfred Wegener's theory of continental drift was turned up when the driving forces forcontinental drift were discovered during the 50s and 60s: The enormous heat in the Earth's core and Earth's mantle generates the flow of rocks within the Earth's mantle, a process similar to the movement ofwarm water in a cooking pot. This heat-driven mass transport is called convection. On the Earth's surface, this process leads not only to plate movement but also to drifting of the continents floatingon the plates. To date however, there has been no realistic mathematical–physical theory describing the interaction between the convective movement in the Earths mantle and the continental drift. V.Trubitsin, M. Kaban und M. Rothacher from the GFZ have now developed a numerical model, based on the current position of the continents, the structures of the Earth's mantle obtained through geophysicalmeasurements, and the current displacement rates on the surface. Hence they were able to calculate the future position of the continents in hundreds of millions of years. It could be shown that the...
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