"It’s a little bit like having Google Earth with a time slider," said Prof Dietmar Müller at the University of Sydney’s School of Geosciences.
"You ask the software to show you, for example, how the supercontinent Pangaea and the large oceans surrounding it were assembled 200 million years ago. It delivers that by calculating the probable positions, orientations and motions of the tectonic plates through time," he added.
GPlates does much more than merely visualise the appearance of the Earth’s surface.
Its users can reconstruct the topography of the continents and the oceans through time and then use that geological and geographic data as a boundary condition for a range of computer simulations from recreations of past climates to simulations which unravel the evolution of the Earth’s hot interior.
In another promising application, the software may be used to help locate oil, natural gas and mineral deposits far below the Earth’s surface, say its developers.
"In the long term, our goal is to expand its capability even further, linking the desktop software to remote databases and allowing it to automatically download a diversity of geodata and detailed map images depending on how far the user zooms in. It will essentially be a virtual geological observatory," said Prof Müller.
Press Trust Of India