Experts look to new geologic epoch, possibly bid farewell to Holocene Epoch

Described as the "Anthropocene," the new epoch is said to have first emerged in the mid-20th Century
By Marilyn Malara  |  Jan. 9, 2016 at 11:05 AM
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LONDON, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- Scientists say human activity - including the abundant use of plastics, concrete and fossil fuels - has modified the Earth's surface, causing the rise of a new geological epoch different from the long-established Holocene.

Through ongoing review of the stratigraphic record, climate change and the status of animal populations, researchers say there is reason to believe in the existence of a distinctly new epoch, currently named the Anthropocene.

A report by the Anthropocene Working Group, associated with the Subcommission of Quaternary Stratigraphy and published in Science magazine Friday, suggests further evidence of the existence of a "new geological time unit," formed by the influx of man-made materials, radioactive waste and nuclear fallout, among other things.

Classification of the proposed epoch has yet to be formalized, although some researchers believe it first emerged during the global industrial boom of the 1950s. The term Anthropocene was first coined by Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer in 2000 to describe the Earth's present condition and time interval.

"The paper looks at the magnitude of the changes that humanity has made to the planet," Anthropocene Working Group secretary Dr. Colin Waters told BBC.

"Have they been sufficient to significantly alter the nature of the sediments now being accumulated at present, and are they distinctive from the existing Holocene Epoch that started at the end of the last ice age? That case has now been made," he said.

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