TECH

Anthropocene Epoch: Humans May Have Pushed Planet Earth Into A 'New Geological Era'

01/08/2016 02:06 pm 14:06:55 | Updated 08 January 2016

Humanity's irreversible impact on Earth may have pushed it into a new geological era, scientists have said.

The question of "whether humans have changed the Earth system sufficiently to produce a stratigraphic signature in sediments and ice" was answered by a new study published in Science.

In it, researchers argue that there's enough evidence to suggest Earth is in a new geological time unit, dubbed the Anthropocene.

planet earth

Comparing it to the latest epoch, the Holocene, they said there is increased amounts of aluminium, plastics and concrete in the sedimentary rocks, which provides a window into how the planet has changed over time.

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While the paper - 'The Anthropocene is functionally and stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene’ - does not officially mark the start of a new era, it makes the strongest case yet for why we have created our own epoch.

A geological body will analyse the evidence later this year to arrive at an official answer.

Nuclear weapons have left the biggest fingerprints on the planet causing atoms with excess nuclear energy to be deposited across the globe.

Other findings include the rise in manufactured materials such as aluminium, plastics and concrete in sediments.

The report was produced by the Anthropocene Working Group that have been weighing the case for a new epoch for a while.

Jan Zalasiewicz, a member of the group and a geologist at the University of Leicester, explained the importance of the debate in an article he wrote for the New Scientist.

"Formalising the Anthropocene would be a big step: the Geologic Time Scale, the backbone of Earth science, is jealously guarded," he stated.

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

"There's still some discussion as to whether it should be a formal or informal unit, but we'd like to have a specific definition," he added.

"And a majority of the group are moving towards the mid-20th Century for the start of this new epoch."

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