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From the Holocene to the Anthropocene: marked changes started in the early to mid-1950s

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January 16, 2018 University of Leicester read full ScienceDaily article here

The international working group… has, since 2009, been analysing the case for formalisation of the Anthropocene, a potential new epoch of geological time dominated by overwhelming human impact on the Earth. The group has found that a broad range of potential physical, chemical and biological markers characterise the Anthropocene, the clearest global markers being radionuclide fallout signals from nuclear testing and changes in carbon chemistry through fossil fuel burning — these in particular show marked changes starting in the early to mid-1950s….

Scientists within the Anthropocene Working Group are working towards developing a proposal, based upon finding a ‘golden spike’, more technically known as a Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP). This is a reference level within recent strata somewhere in the world that will be proposed to most clearly and consistently characterise the changes as the Holocene, which represents the last 11,700 years of geological time on this planet, gave way into the Anthropocene about 65 years ago.

….The group… has now reviewed present knowledge on where these and other markers form the clearest, sharpest, and most stable signal in strata that might be used to define the Anthropocene as a formal unit of the Geological Time Scale.

The current study, which is published in the journal Earth-Science Reviews, informs the scientific community where they should start the process of collecting and analysing continuous core samples of strata across the proposed Holocene-Anthropocene transition….

…Professor Mark Williams said: “The range of environments we are working with is remarkable — from polar ice and snow layers to deep lake and sea floors to the skeletons of reef corals and stalactites in caves. The fact that signals of the Anthropocene are so sharply visible in all of these shows just how pervasive human impact has been on the planet in post-war times.”

Colin N. Waters, et al. Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP) for the Anthropocene Series: Where and how to look for potential candidates. Earth-Science Reviews, 2017; DOI: 10.1016/j.earscirev.2017.12.016

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