'Case is made' for Anthropocene Epoch

  • metta

    Posts: 44465

    Jan 10, 2016 7:39 AM GMT
    'Case is made' for Anthropocene Epoch

    "There is little doubt now that we have entered a new geological age, believes an international scientific panel.
    The team, which has been tasked with defining the so-called Anthropocene, says humanity's impacts on Earth will be visible in sediments and rocks millions of years into the future.

    The researchers are working towards a formal classification of the new epoch.

    An open question is the formal start date, which some panel members think could be the 1950s.

    This decade marks the beginning of the "Great Acceleration", when the human population and its consumption patterns suddenly speeded up.
    It coincides with the spread of ubiquitous "techno materials", such as aluminium, concrete and plastic.
    It also covers the years when thermonuclear weapons tests dispersed radioactive elements across the globe. Their long-lived activity will still be apparent to anyone who cares to look for it hundreds of millennia from now."

    story continues...


    It's the dawn of a new age.

  • wellwell

    Posts: 2266

    Jan 10, 2016 4:10 PM GMT
    This is interesting?

    So, what else is new ??
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jan 10, 2016 6:41 PM GMT
    I don't see it in the article so I'm not sure whether this was part of the debate, but I've heard it said that the last few hundred years of impact would qualify more as an 'event' than an 'age', especially if we nuke each other into oblivion and disappear.

    I find it interesting because it's so difficult to try to reconcile such vastly differing orders of magnitude as decades or centuries vs. millions of years. As human beings I think most of us have a difficult time comparing our lifetimes to the lengths of time that actually register meaningfully in cosmological terms.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jan 10, 2016 6:47 PM GMT
    Humans have been overpopulating their environments and killing themselves off in the process for thousands of years. It's just like baby boomers to think that that they are unique in this as well.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jan 10, 2016 7:38 PM GMT
    Most of these arguments, to date, have been rather simplistic and seem to reflect an ignorance of time scales and natural processes. What we need here, is to think about what our era will look like in the geological record of the distant future. Of course, that depends on how the future goes, which we can't really know. There is a bit of that in this paper.

    One point is that the Holocene has been so short (and many have not been convinced that it even exists - could we still be in the Pliestocene?) that it's pointless to try to split it up even more. Call it what you want, it's all going to be the same when we're fossils.

    Bomb carbon is going to disappear in a few thousand years (unless we set off more bombs). There will probably be a permanent isotopic signature in sediment layers, from burning fossil fuels. By necessity, this will only be a single stripe in the record. An "event" as anotherphil points out. Metallic aluminum has a really short half-life. Maybe where our urban areas are now, there will be enough concentration of man-made materials to preserve a signature, but it will be hard to find. Within a few centuries, we'll probably be mining our old dumps and ruins to recycle valuable elements - as soon as easily-mined surface deposits are exhausted.