According to a new study, “The age of man” or Anthropocene began in 1610. The paper bears the title “Defining the Anthropocene” and was published in the Nature journal.
“Anthropocene” is a term that defines a new geological time period and was proposed as a definition for an epoch that began when human activities started to influence Earth’s ecosystems. Anthropocene means “New Man Epoch”.
The term was first suggested in the 1960s by Russian scientists but it wasn’t until 2008 that a formal proposal to make this term an official measure of geological epoch divisions was submitted to the Stratigraphy Commission of the Geological Society of London. The term was approved and since then, many scientists tried to determine when this time period actually began.
An epoch is a geologic timescale measure that is longer than an age but shorter than a period. At present we are living in the Holocene Epoch, within the Quaternary Period, which is included in the Cenozoic age. The official beginning of the Anthropocene means the end of the Holocene which was determined according to a geochemical signal measured within Greenland’s ice cores. The end of the Holocene marks the beginning of a warmer and wetter period that followed the last ice age.
Scientists decided on the year 1610 as the beginning of the Anthropocene after analyzing Antarctic ice cores which showed that was the time during which a decrease in atmospheric carbon dioxide took place. This was a period when the age of exploration was at its peak and the first Europeans set foot in the Americas.
According to the BBC, the science world hasn’t reached unanimity in regards to the year 1610. Some say that the beginning of the Anthropocene should be set at the debut of the industrial revolution or the tests for the first nuclear bombs.
If scientist decided on the nuclear era, the first year wouldn’t be when the first bomb was tested but a little later, in 1964. The argument lies in the fact that 1964 was the year when large amounts of radioactive isotopes (the result of numerous nuclear-weaponry testing) were detected in rock layers.
Everyone in the science world is now waiting for 2016 when the official start date of the Anthropocene will be set during the International Commission on Stratigraphy meeting.
Image Source: BBC