Scientists are about to embark on a global hunt for a “golden spike” – a physical point in the geological record marking the shift from one epoch to another. In a quest to convince skeptics in the geology community that humanity’s impact on the planet has been so profound that we have actually left the Holocene epoch that began 11,500 years ago after the last major ice age, the researchers are looking for the marker that will enable them to formally declare a new epoch known as Anthropocene (from anthropo, for “man,” and cene, for “new”).
In recent years there has been an increasing push among some geological scientists to officially declare a new epoch. They cite man’s harmful impact on the climate system, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, habitats, biodiversity and plant and wildlife. A working group of experts was set up to investigate possible evidence of a new epoch. They will present their findings to the 35th International Geological Congress (IGC) in Cape Town, South Africa, which runs from August 27 to September 4. The group then plans to look for a “line in the rock” that would mark the beginning of the Anthropocene. There could be a formal declaration that we are living in the Anthropocene by the International Union of Geological Sciences in just two years.
Scientists say the Anthropocene likely started in the mid-20th century, specifically July 16, 1945, the date of the Trinity test of the world’s first nuclear weapon. Since the end of World War II, carbon pollution from the burning of fossil fuels increased dramatically.
The Earth has naturally alternated between cold and warm periods throughout the planet’s geological history, but the Anthropecene would mark the first time in Earth’s history that humans have altered global average temperatures through our relentless pumping out of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.
In the past, climate change occurred because of natural oscillation, Dr. Colin Waters, secretary of the Anthropocene Working Group, told The Independent. “But really in the last century we have had such a huge impact that we’re actually taking the planet away from that natural oscillation and changing the trend for global temperatures from what should have been a cooling trend to a warming trend.”
Via The Independent