Watch How a Billion Years Has Transformed the Look of Earth
While it feels like the land under our feet is stable and solid, we are in fact constantly moving on seven large tectonic plates.
These tectonic plates, which, in simple terms, are large slabs of rock that divide the earth’s crust, shift only a few inches per year, making it impossible to ever notice the continued movement (unless colliding plates suddenly slide and of course cause an earthquake) . .
But imagine if we could map these snail-like movements to see how much the earth has changed over the past billion years.
Now, thanks to the work of a team of geoscientists at the University of Sydney in Australia, we can.
Using data from scientists around the world, the team spent four years processing the data to create a stunning video (below) that shows a billion years of tectonic plate movement condensing to just 40 seconds with the current geographic layout has only been recognizable at the very end.
A report on the University of Sydney website states that efforts to track the movement of the plates over such a long period of time “provide a scientific framework for understanding planet habitability and for finding critical metal resources that are needed for a low carbon future ”.
Researchers also noted how tectonics affect the evolution of life, with the continents acting as “rafts”, carrying evolving species that mix as continents connect.
Professor Dietmar Müller, co-author and academic director of the university’s EarthByte geosciences group that created the video, said, “Our team has created an entirely new model of Earth evolution over the past billion years.”
The professor added that the team’s work will explain how the earth became habitable for complex creatures. Life on earth would not exist without plate tectonics. With this new model we are closer to understanding how this beautiful blue planet became our cradle. “
Another co-author, Dr. Michael Tetley told Euronews: “For the first time, a complete model of tectonics that encompasses all boundaries has been created.”
The scientist added, “On the human timescale, things move in inches per year, but as we can see from the animation, the continents were everywhere in time.”
Tetley highlighted the point by stating that the freezing, inhospitable continent of Antarctica “was once a lovely holiday destination on the equator.”