According to UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, Earth’s current largest ocean, the Pacific, covers more than 30% of the planet’s surface, which is 12,000 miles (19,000 km) between Colombia and the Malay Peninsula at its widest point. extends to.IOC UNESCO (opens in new tab)) but that titanic sea represents only the remains of the largest ocean EarthHistory of.
So which was the largest ocean ever to exist on our planet?
That would be Panthalassa, a world-spanning sea that surrounded the supercontinent pangea About 300 million to 200 million years ago, Brendan Murphy, a professor of geology at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, told Live Science.
“The largest oceans usually happen when supercontinents form, because if you only have one big supercontinent, you only have one ocean that exists around it,” Murphy said.
related: Will there ever be another Pangea?
This is likely to happen multiple times, Murphy said, but all those single world oceans would have been comparable in size. The most recent supercontinent was Pangea, the continent in which today’s continents fit together, including fragments such as the Ara of Africa and South America. Another continent, Rodinia, organized the Earth’s landmass into a different configuration about 650 million years ago. Smithsonian Institution (opens in new tab), Geologists debate whether another supercontinent arose in the middle, Murphy said.
Panthalassa would have covered a distance of at least 1,860 miles (3,000 kilometers) over the width of the Pacific, Murphy said. To put this in perspective, if you were traveling by jet plane across the equator, it would take 10 hours to cross the Pacific, but 15 hours to circumnavigate Panthalassa, he explained. Or think of it this way: At its widest point, Pacific could fit more than five moons in diameter; The additional width of the Panthalassa will accommodate approximately one more Moon,
By surface area, Panthalassa dwarfs the Pacific, which is about 70% . covers Earth’s surface (opens in new tab)According to a 2022 review in the journal earth science review (opens in new tab), or about 140 million square miles (360 sq km). 30 percent of Earth’s surface is over 63 million square miles (165 million sq km), according to the Pacific Ocean. IOC UNESCO (opens in new tab),
Seeing Panthalassa as the Pacific with more than 1,800 additional miles also reflects geological history: Pangea broke up in large part due to the opening of the Atlantic Ocean at the expense of Panthalassa. Its remnants became the Pacific, so you can see Panthalassa as the Pacific glued to the Atlantic, which is today about 1,800 miles between Brazil and Liberia, and 3,000 miles (4,800 km) between North America and North Africa, According to IOC – UNESCO.
Technically, however, Earth had an even larger ocean at one point – but not defined by continents. According to the Smithsonian, about 150 million years after Earth was formed, it had oceans but no continents yet, so an unbroken ocean covered the planet. This would mean that the ocean covers approximately 24,901 miles (40,075 km) of Earth’s equatorial circumference and the entire 197 million square miles (510 million sq km). Earth’s surface (opens in new tab),
Even today, however, scientists consider Earth’s oceans to be a “world ocean”, noting that the waters intersect at various points, Marinebio Conservation Society (opens in new tab), For example, the Atlantic mixes with the Pacific at the bottom of South America, and contacts the Indian Ocean beneath Africa, Murphy said.
Yet, as defined by the continents, the Pacific has held the title of the world’s largest ocean since the death of Pangea some 200 million years ago. But if the current estimate tectonic plate movements True, Australia will split the Pacific in two over the next 70 million years, Murphy said. Also, the Atlantic will widen, taking the crown of Earth’s largest ocean.
Originally published on Live Science.