Scientists Vote We Have Entered The Anthropocene Epoch, Earth's Newest Geological Chapter

The BAKER atomic weapons test in Bikini Atoll. This took place on July 25, 1946, as part of Operation Crossroads. Everett Historical/Shutterstock

Robin Andrews 29 Aug 2016, 13:00

Humans really are unique compared to other species. Although we share many characteristics with other animals, we are able to send missions into interstellar space, find new worlds, write and speak in hundreds of languages, heal ourselves with technology, and completely reorganize the environment around us, for good and bad.

As a result of this, scientists think that we belong in our own geological age, and it looks like they have finally agreed when the so-called “Anthropocene” began – 1950, marked by the sudden spike in plutonium debris left behind by nuclear weapons testing at the start of the Cold War.

The Anthropocene Working Group (AWG), an organization comprised of scientists and academics from all over the world, recently voted on five separate motions relating to the currently tentative geological time period, with 34 out of 35 members concluding that there is enough evidence to conclude the Anthropocene is detectable at high resolution in the geological record.

“Human impact has left discernible traces on the stratigraphic record for thousands of years,” the AWG said in a statement. “However, substantial and approximately globally synchronous changes to the Earth System most clearly intensified in the Great Acceleration of the mid-20th century.

“The mid-20th century also coincides with the clearest and most distinctive array of signals imprinted upon recently deposited strata. Hence, the mid-20th century represents the optimal beginning of a potential Anthropocene Epoch.”

Ultimately, 30 members of the AWG decided the Anthropocene should be formalized, with just three against the motion and two abstaining.


The greenhouse gas spike that's causing such detrimental climate change was also considered as a potential primary signal. Piyaset/Shutterstock

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