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Epochs, events and episodes: Marking the geological impact of humans
journal contributionposted on 2023-10-12, 09:46 authored by CN Waters, M Williams, J Zalasiewicz, SD Turner, AD Barnosky, MJ Head, SL Wing, M Wagreich, W Steffen, CP Summerhayes, AB Cundy, J Zinke, B Fiałkiewicz-Kozieł, R Leinfelder, PK Haff, JR McNeill, NL Rose, I Hajdas, FMG McCarthy, A Cearreta, A Gałuszka, J Syvitski, Y Han, Z An, IJ Fairchild, JA Ivar do Sul, C Jeandel
Event stratigraphy is used to help characterise the Anthropocene as a chronostratigraphic concept, based on analogous deep-time events, for which we provide a novel categorization. Events in stratigraphy are distinct from extensive, time-transgressive ‘episodes’ – such as the global, highly diachronous record of anthropogenic change, termed here an Anthropogenic Modification Episode (AME). Nested within the AME are many geologically correlatable events, the most notable being those of the Great Acceleration Event Array (GAEA). This isochronous array of anthropogenic signals represents brief, unique events evident in geological deposits, e.g.: onset of the radionuclide ‘bomb-spike’; appearance of novel organic chemicals and fuel ash particles; marked changes in patterns of sedimentary deposition, heavy metal contents and carbon/nitrogen isotopic ratios; and ecosystem changes leaving a global fossil record; all around the mid-20th century. The GAEA reflects a fundamental transition of the Earth System to a new state in which many parameters now lie beyond the range of Holocene variability. Globally near-instantaneous events can provide robust primary guides for chronostratigraphic boundaries. Given the intensity, magnitude, planetary significance and global isochroneity of the GAEA, it provides a suitable level for recognition of the base of the Anthropocene as a series/epoch.
CitationEarth-Science Reviews, 234 (2022) 104171
Author affiliationSchool of Geography, Geology and the Environment
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