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  Geotimes - March 2008 - Pangea Stayed Put

Pangea Stayed Put

Sandy deposits in the southwestern United States suggest that the supercontinent Pangaea did not drift northward, as previously thought, but instead remained near the equator throughout its 100-million-year existence. Paleomagnetic data used to determine Pangaea’s movement had suggested that the giant landmass, which included all of the existing continents before breaking up 225 million years ago, slowly drifted northward by about 20 degrees.

But the sands appear to tell a different story. Deposits in the Colorado Plateau from that time period suggest that the wind direction never changed throughout the continent’s lifespan — suggesting that the supercontinent stayed put, Clinton Rowe, a geologist at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, and colleagues reported Nov. 23 in Science. The discrepancy calls into question the interpretation of latitude from paleomagnetic data and how winds formed the sand dunes of the plateau — or whether it’s even possible to correctly reproduce the wind fields at all from the available data.

Carolyn Gramling

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