250 million years – an almost unimaginably long period of time for the human mind. However, a research team from Great Britain has tried to simulate such a distant future. The results paint a true horror scenario.
First of all, the simulation shows that as a result of strong shifts in the earth's plates, the continents will move closer together again and eventually merge with each other - to form a Pangea Ultima, a "last common earth". This would restore the situation that existed before the continents formed in the form we know today many millions of years ago. Life on this supercontinent is said to be impossible for humans and the vast majority of other mammals.
According to the findings published by British researchers led by geologist Alexander Farnsworth from the University of Bristol in the journal Nature Geoscience, temperatures on Earth will rise extremely. Due to the tectonic shifts, the volcanoes would be significantly more active and the CO2 concentration would increase by around 50 percent. This in turn would create a strong greenhouse effect. Solar radiation is expected to increase by up to 2.5 percent.
Under these circumstances, extreme heat would occur on Earth. The study speaks of temperatures that are between 40 and 70 degrees Celsius - and are therefore hostile to human life. The sweat production of humans and other mammals would no longer be sufficient to survive under these conditions. The last time it was this hot on Earth was at the Permian-Triassic boundary more than 250 million years ago. At that time there was a mass extinction.
But even before that, life on earth will become extremely unpleasant: the constantly rising temperatures are likely to trigger a major food shortage, as most plants die in such heat, the scientists predict. The result would be famine in many parts of the world.
Man-made climate change is accelerating this process. “The Earth has a very changeable environment,” says study leader Farnsworth. "We humans are very lucky with what we have now, and we should not change our own climate beyond the cooler climate through which we evolved. We are the dominant species, but Earth and its climate decide how long this lasts."
For their simulation, the researchers used data from the British Weather Service and a supercomputer from the University of Bristol. According to the university, this is the first model of its kind. Whether the predictions for Earth come true down to the last detail is uncertain due to the long period of time, they admit. But their research could provide important guidance. In addition, the requirements for alternative planets could be further specified.
Sources: "Nature Geoscience" / "Guardian" / "World of Physics"
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