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Supercontinent Cycle

The supercontinent Pangaea was the most recent supercontinent, but there were others earlier in Earth history as part of the supercontinent cycle.

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A Super Continent

A Super Continent

Credit: Author Kious, Jacquelyne; Tilling, Robert I.; Kiger, Martha, Russel, Jane
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pangaea_to_present.gif
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

By now, you’ve heard about Pangaea. Pangaea split apart to become the current continents. Where are the continents going? What will happen when they get there?

Why It Matters

  • The continents were once joined into a single supercontinent, called Pangaea.
  • Since Pangaea broke up the continents have been moving apart. There are three ideas for where they are going:
    • The continents will continue moving apart so that the Pacific Ocean closes
    • The continents will reverse direction and the Atlantic Ocean will close, reforming Pangaea
    • A supercontinent will come together centered on the North Pole

Explore More

With the links below, learn more about the future supercontinent. Then answer the following questions.

  1. What do “tiny magnets buried in rock” do?
  2. How can the tiny magnets be used to learn about the former locations of the continents?
  3. What is the name of the predicted future supercontinent? What is the reason for that name?
  4. How does this predicted supercontinent form?
  5. How will the coming together of this future supercontinent affect the political divisions we currently have on Earth?

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Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Author Kious, Jacquelyne; Tilling, Robert I.; Kiger, Martha, Russel, Jane; Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pangaea_to_present.gif; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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