The Late Carboniferous is a time in Earth’s history when Pangea first was formed. Pangea is the most recent super continent, a land state where most dry land on Earth is all collected in a singular mass. There have been more than one of these, however Pangea was the last.

In this variation of Pangea, Siberia, China, and the Western portion of the United States are not yet directly connected. These all however would become connected in full in the late Triassic. As what goes up must come down, the super continent of Pangea started to break apart during the Jurassic. By the late Jurassic, the Atlantic Ocean started to open up. Africa and South America, still connected, started to separate from North America

Parks Township, 300 Million Years Ago

The map below shows the earth at 300 million years in the past. How can we know this for sure? The truth is, we don’t. But with lots of science work in the field of Paleomagnetism, very dedicated people have made some well researched predictions. Keep in mind this field is still young. Literal map changing discoveries happen often. While researching this topic, I found several conflicting maps.

Map showing the united states positioned below the equator with varying landmasses.
The United States 300 million years ago. The equator is represented as a red line and Pennsylvania is shown highlighted yellow. Redrawn by Clinton Godlesky based on maps produced by research from C. R. Scotese

The heart of Paleomagnetism involves making measurements of magnetic field alignments in dated rock beds. When lava forms, a magnetic field direction becomes locked in as it cools. Scientists in the field then collect, date, and measure the magnetic field direction. Upon determining the direction, the scientist deduces a position and records it.

It can be a difficult concept to grasp or even believe. Not widely accepted until the early 1960’s, Plate tectonics, or more specifically continental drift had been seriously researched for 50 years prior. The idea of continental drift has first proposed way back in 1596 by Abraham Ortelius. Several people developed the theory further, but it wasn’t being researched fully until Alfred Wegener published his article about it in 1912.

Research involving measurements of rocks from both sides of the ocean along with exact fossil record matches help formulate and push the theory. Today, an extra 2.5 centimeters is added to the Atlantic ocean every passing year. North America and Africa are moving in opposite directions relative to each other.

Alfred Wegener

Alfred Wegener in Greenland
A. Wegener in 1930, during an over Winter stay in Greenland

Born in 1880, Alfred Wegener is one the most important figures in current understanding of how global Geology works. While continental drift was proposed as a theory long before his birth, his works on it for the 18 years leading up to his death helped develop what is now a widely accepted, fully developed theory. If you were to tell someone in 1900 that Parks Township used to be a tropical location below the Earth’s equator, the vast majority of people and experts in the field of Geology would tell you that you were wrong.

One reason his ideas were not accepted was a misunderstanding that the continents were supposed to fit along the exposed coast lines. Wegener was actually considering the continental shelves, that are currently around 200m below the current shorelines. Also, he believed the motion was as high as 250 cm/year. It turned out that the actual spread in the Atlantic is 2.5 cm/year.

In the 1950’s, the science of paleomagnetism helped prove much of the data in Wegener’s theory. In the 1960’s, seafloor spreading was also discovered, which brought it further along. Ultimately the theory helped develop the theory of plate tectonics, which show that plates over the entire Earth are in motion.

Wegener died doing what he was passionate about. At the age of 50, it was believed he died of heart failure while on an expedition in Greenland. Rasmus Villumsen, 23 years of age, was the only one with him when he died, and it is believed he took Wegener’s journal with him after burying him. However, he also did not survive and it’s believed his body is somewhere buried under hundreds of feet of snow and ice.

Climate and Geography in a Carboniferous World

Climate is another large factor in determining what it was like in a world so long ago. In the Carboniferous specifically, the Earth was awash with Oxygen and the sea level changed frequently. For example, 323 million years ago, seas were at a very low level. Where was the water? Locked up as ice in the North and South poles. This exposed land masses and created wet swamps in low areas.

In Parks Township specifically, the Glenshaw Formation has several distinct limestone layers. Ancient seas moved inland during changes in climate. This climate is why the limestone layers formed. In a hillside, over 60 feet of elevation you can find both marine sea life fossils and land plants. Towering Lepidodendron trees were abundant at times. 500,000 years later you could find large cephalopods such as Solenocheilus swimming in a local shallow saltwater environment.

Another dimension to consider is geography. The mountains, seas, and placement of land was much different than it is today. For example, while the Sahara desert lies close to the same latitude as Guatemala, an arid desert dominates the landscape. Guatemala gets the same amount of sun, but the Sahara doesn’t have moist ocean air to create a tropical landscape like you’ll find in Guatemala.

The Appalachian Mountains

Parks Townships rests within the Appalachian plateau. The plateau consists of uplifted land caused by the formation of the Appalachian Mountains. These mountains were first formed 480 million years ago, and existed at the center of Pangea. As North America and Africa rush away from each other in present day, they once were moving toward each other. The immense pressures and forces created as two continents collide create great mountain ranges and uplift. The mountain range was as impressive as the current day Rocky Mountains. However, erosion has reduced their once great stature.

Carboniferous rainforest collapse

Around 305 million years ago, this collapse marked the start of the end of the Carboniferous. On land, vast rainforests changed over to islands of vegetation, each housing unique species depending on size and location. These events effected the worlds oceans as well, starting a decline in diversity.

References

This is a short list of references. I have more to collect.