The formation of a new “supercontinent” has the potential to wipe out humans and all other mammal life in 250 million years, a new study found.
In a study of the impacts of climate extremes, researchers with the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom predicted all continents will converge in around 250 million years to form Earth’s next supercontinent called Pangea Ultima.
In the paper published Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience, researchers said the creation and decay of Pangea Ultima would lead to unprecedented heat levels, greater volcanic eruptions, and increased carbon dioxide production, which will create a hostile environment for humans.
These effects “will probably lead to a climate tipping point and their [mammals] mass extinction,” the researchers wrote.
Using the first-ever supercomputer climate models of the distant future, researchers were able to predict about how high the temperatures could become as the sun becomes brighter and emits more energy into the Earth.
“The newly-emerged supercontinent would effectively create a triple whammy, comprising the continentality effect, hotter sun and more CO2 in the atmosphere, of increasing heat for much of the planet. The result is a mostly hostile environment devoid of food and water sources for mammals,” Dr. Alexander Farnsworth, senior search associate at the University of Bristol, said in a release.
Farnsworth said widespread temperatures between 40 to 50 degrees Celsius compounded with high levels of humidity “would ultimately seal our fate,” due to humans’ and mammals’ inability to shed the heat through sweat.
The study noted that while mammals have evolved to withstand colder temperatures, their upper temperature tolerance has generally remained constant. Thus, prolonged exposure to excessive heat will be more difficult to overcome and potentially unsurvivable researchers said.
Pointing out that human-caused climate change and global warming is likely an increasing cause of heat stress and mortality in some regions, researchers said the planet should remain habitable until the “seismic landmass change in the deep future.”
When the supercontinent does form, researchers project only about 8 to 16 percent of land would be habitable for mammals.