Saturday, April 23, 2011

Palaeo Earth Reconstructions

An exciting new set of scientifically researched reconstructions of Earth throughout deep time have just been released by the Planetary Habitability Laboratory of the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo.

The series of 30 time periods were produced by Zuleyka González, Sophy Jiménez, Karla Bracero, and Wilfredo Pérez. These are acknowledged on the the Planetary Habitability Laboratory site as owing heavily to the previous work of Ronald Blakey from Northern Arizona University and Christopher Scotese from University of Texas at Arlington.

Not only were these new palaeo-maps heavily researched to produce as accurate a prehistoric globe as possible (sadly at this point with our understanding considerable portions of each map are still educated guess work), but the team was granted access to NASA's Next Generation Blue Marble project to emulate as real an appearance as possible.

The Blue Marble project is a computer process by which geographic information such as topography, elevation, climate, and vegetation are entered as mathematical inputs, and the program generates a realistic colour rendition of the area. This process has been continually refined and improved by NASA mapping contemporary Earth where we have a solid cross reference. The main reason to develop such a program for modern Earth studies is that just using and compiling photographs loses detail due to the extremes in colour variation across the planets surface (ex. white glaciers to deep dark green forest. In a photograph getting the subtlies between these two is impossible). The program allows far more vivid, and ironically realistic, colorization of planetary reconstructions than just photography can provide.

It is very exciting to see this technology now applied to the Earth Sciences, and hopefully we'll get more maps to fill in the gaps of the mere 30 that are supposed to cover 750 million years!

Be sure to pop by the Visible Paleo-Earth site to check out the animation, and closer up looks at any of the 30 rendered time periods maps!

Hat tip to Bill Parker of Chinleana to alerting me to this project with his post here.