December 8, 2023

New supercontinent could make Earth “hostile” – study paints bleak future scenario

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Insufferable heat and no water or food anywhere – this is what Earth will look like in 250 million years. (code image) © IMAGO/ Opaska

A research team is using a supercomputer to study what the Earth will look like in 250 million years. The result is shocking.

Bristol – Heat could be the cause of the next mass extinction on Earth. A research team from the University of Bristol in Great Britain found that using supercomputers to model climates for the distant future. In a study that In a special issue Natural Earth Sciences Published The research team, led by lead author Alexander Farnsworth, describes what will happen to all mammals, including humans, in about 250 million years.

But how does this come about? Research has for some time assumed that in a few hundred million years A new supercontinent forms: Pangea Ultima. According to the researchers, the tectonic processes involved in continental drift lead to more volcanic eruptions, which release large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and warm the planet. At the same time, the Sun is getting older and hotter, and it emits more radiation.

“Lack of food and water sources for mammals” in new supercontinent

“A newly formed supercontinent would represent a triple heat stroke for large areas of the planet due to the continentality effect, a hotter sun and higher CO₂ levels in the atmosphere,” Farnsworth explains in one. Notice And continues: “The result is a hugely hostile environment for mammals with no food and water sources.”

Farnsworth describes a horror scenario for Earth’s distant future: “The Sun is expected to emit 2.5 percent more radiation and the supercontinent is primarily located in the hot, humid tropics, with temperatures ranging from 40 to 70 degrees Celsius. The planet’s large diurnal extremes combined with high humidity “will ultimately seal our fate, ” Farnsworth continued. “Humans — and many other species — perish because they cannot release this heat through sweat and cool their bodies.”

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Earth must have been habitable until Pangea Ultima formed

As the future scenario looks so bleak, co-author Eunice Low warns: “It is important not to lose sight of our current climate crisis, which is the result of human emissions of greenhouse gases. Although we predict that the planet will be uninhabitable in 250 million years, we are already experiencing extreme heat that is harmful to human health. That is why it is so important to achieve net zero emissions as soon as possible.”

While climate change and global warming will become a major problem in some parts of the world, the research team believes the planet will remain largely habitable until the supercontinent Pangea Ultima forms. According to modelling, only eight to 16 percent of the land area is habitable for mammals and humans.

Earth's warmest monthly mean temperature in degrees Celsius on the supercontinent Pangea Ultima is expected in the distant future.
Earth’s warmest monthly mean temperature in degrees Celsius on the supercontinent Pangea Ultima is expected in the distant future. © University of Bristol

The findings also have extraterrestrial relevance

Co-author Benjamin Mills led the calculations of future carbon dioxide emissions for the study. He warns: “We believe that CO₂ levels could rise from 400 ppm today to more than 600 ppm in the future several million years from now. Of course, this assumes people stop burning fossil fuels, otherwise we’ll be seeing these numbers very soon.

As lead author Farnsworth points out, the research team’s findings apply beyond Earth: “The work also makes clear that the so-called ‘habitable zone’ of the Solar System may not be very hospitable to humans. Whether the continents are scattered like we have today or lie in one giant supercontinent. (tab)