In this Dec. 16, 2009, photo, steam and smoke rise from a coal burning power plant in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. (Martin Meissner/AP)
By Chris Mooney January 7 at 2:36 PM Washington Post
A group of 24 geoscientists on Thursday released a bracing assessment, suggesting that humans have altered the Earth so extensively that the consequences will be detectable in current and future geological records. They therefore suggest that we should consider the Earth to have moved into a new geologic epoch, the “Anthropocene,” sometime circa 1945-1964. The current era (at least under present definitions), known as the Holocene, began about 11,700 years ago, and was marked by warming and large sea level rise coming out of a major cool period, the Younger Dryas. However, the researchers suggest, changes ranging from growing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to infusions of plastics into marine sediments suggest that we’ve now left the Holocene decisively behind — and that the proof is already being laid down in polar ice cores, deep ocean sediments, and future rocks themselves. “In a way it’s a thought experiment,” said Naomi Oreskes, a geologically trained Harvard historian of science and one of the study’s authors. “We’re imagining what a future geologist will see when he or she looks at the rock record. But it’s not that difficult a thought experiment to do, because so many of these signals are already present.” The paper was published Thursday in the journal Science and was led by Colin Waters, a geologist with the British Geological Survey. “Quite unlike other subdivisions of geological time, the implication of formalizing the Anthropocene reach well beyond the geological community,” the authors conclude. “Not only would this represent the first instance of a new epoch having been witnessed firsthand by advanced human societies, it would be one stemming from the consequences of their own doing.”…
Posted: 07 Jan 2016 12:17 PM PST
Evidence for a new geological epoch which marks the impact of human activity on the Earth is now overwhelming, according to a recent paper by an international group of geoscientists.
Colin N. Waters, et al. The Anthropocene is functionally and stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene.
Science, 2016: 351 (6269) DOI: 10.1126/science.aad2622