I was reading this article, and noticed this section:

At the opposite end of the plates, the presence of water underground changes how easy or hard it is for one plate to subduct beneath another in a plate collision zone, as was discussed at a recent AGU conference (link to session), 50 years after the AGU conference where Jason Morgan presented his theory.

I would like to explore a hypothetical scenario. Assume that the continents are in a Rodinia or Pangaea position (either one or both positions can be explored in this scenario). I understand that the current theory of plate tectonics says that the plates moved from the Rodinia and Pangaea positions to their current positions slowly over millions or billions of years. However, for this scenario, let's say these plates moved into their current positions in a year. What conditions (perhaps focus on the amount of water and pressure) would be necessary for this to occur in year? I would imagine it would need very extreme conditions.

In addition to this, what would the affect be from such conditions and movement?

  • $\begingroup$ Assuming we start from Pangea, use constant speed, and the approximate current distance between Africa and South America, we get a plate movement speed on order of around 30cm/h. Even assuming the plates don't melt, I presume the movement would cause non stop huge volcanos, earthquakes and tsunamis that would wipe off everything plate surfaces. $\endgroup$
    – Gnudiff
    Nov 22 '20 at 20:49
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Gnudiff keep in mind you also have to get rid of oceanic crust and move the mantle material the plate is plowing through at an even faster rate. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Nov 22 '20 at 21:49

You can't.

Doing so would literally heat the planet till it was incandescent, that is until it was entirely molten again so there would be no tectonics plates until it cooled. no force can move tectonic plates in that time frame without destroying them. You couldn't do it in thousands of years. Worse there is mantle and oceanic plates that need to be moved too which will generate even more heat. Sometimes physics just says no.

Also water has no significant effect on the speed of tectonic plate movement.

  • $\begingroup$ What would be needed to keep everything cool enough to keep it from becoming molten, but still warm enough to allow for easy deformation? $\endgroup$ Nov 22 '20 at 21:28
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    $\begingroup$ @ChristianSirolli it is not about the ease of deformation it is about the amount of energy needed, friction will heat the plates many times past their melting point no matter what you do. Also remember to move continental plates you also have to move oceanic plates out of the way, and the only options are subduction which cannot happen fast enough to allow this. There is no way to do this without magic. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Nov 22 '20 at 21:50

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