I’m aware that the continents and the tectonic plates they reside on drift, but for there to be any noticeable change in their shape or geography takes millions of years to occur. Is there a known way in which this process may be sped up, OR be changed through some major event (effects of climate change, massive earthquake, super volcanic eruption, meteor impact, etc.)? My understanding of continental drift and plate tectonics is pretty general, so do correct me if I made any mistakes. Also if I need to clarify anything do say so.

The inhabitants and their civilizations are of no concern to me, though I would be interested to know what structures would survive such a drastic change or the likelihood of survival for species. Though none of these are necessary to answer the question.

keep in mind I don’t just mean the subtraction of landmass, I also mean the addition, movement, relocation, and separation of it too. All kinds of changes normal tectonic activity would cause, but sped up (ie. I don’t want to wait 250 million years for Pangaea Ultima or Amasia).

I don't mean a change in terrain or topography. I mean an event big enough to let's say split a continent in half forming two new continents or two continents being pushed together to form one new continent, like pangaea, but this happens in a matter of at most a few hundred years. Their question doesn't seem to cover such drastic changes.

  • $\begingroup$ Please add more tags. Science based shall not be the only tag for a question $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Mar 20 '19 at 19:36
  • $\begingroup$ Just how short of a time frame are you looking for? I can think of some things that might speed up tectonic activity, but we'd still be talking millions of years for significant change. If you want something on the scale of say decades, then a massive impact event is probably your only bet (without invoking Sufficiently Advanced Technology, at least.) $\endgroup$ – Gene Mar 20 '19 at 20:05
  • $\begingroup$ Their question doesn't seem to cover such drastic changes. The older question's most popular answer includes, "water rising could separate a continent into islands," which seems to be the same scale you're looking for (respondents did not assume the Q was about a mountain here or a lake there). If none of the answers to the older question meets your needs, please let us know why. $\endgroup$ – JBH Mar 20 '19 at 21:54

Climate isn't going to do much about the topography, but a Caldera or super volcano could, as could massive earthquakes and sudden plate shifts which could cause the jutting up of mountains, or the shearing off of land masses.

A sufficiently large impact from an extraterrestrial object could do so, as observable by the impact on the coast of the gulf of mexico.

I suppose the effects could be sped up or altered by a deliberate bombardment from space, but other than that, none that I can think of.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.