On May 21, a 34-member panel of the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) voted 29-4 in favour of designating a new geological epoch — the Anthropocene. More in News
- According to Nature, the panel plans to submit a formal proposal for the new epoch by 2021 to the International Commission on Stratigraphy, which oversees the official geologic time chart
- Once a formal proposal is made by the AWG, it will be considered by several more groups of the International Commission on Stratigraphy.
- The final ratification will be made by the executive committee of the International Union of Geological Sciences.
- The vote signals the end of the Holocene Epoch, which began 11,700 years ago.
International Union of Geological Sciences
- The term ‘Anthropocene’ was coined in 2000 by Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer to denote the present geological time interval in which human activity has profoundly altered many conditions and processes on Earth.
- The current epoch, the Holocene, is the 12,000 years of stable climate since the last ice age during which all human civilisation developed. But since the mid-20th century, various events mark the end of Holocene geological time. Some of the events like
- carbon dioxide emissions, ocean acidification and sea level rise,
- increase in erosion and sediment transport associated with urbanisation and agriculture
- the global mass extinction of species,
- rapid changes in the biosphere
- the transformation of land by deforestation and development
- global dispersion of many new ‘minerals’ and ‘rocks’ including concrete, fly ash and plastics, and the myriad ‘technofossils’ produced from these and other materials.
- It is yet to identify a definitive geologic marker or golden spike (technically called Global boundary Stratotype Section and Point) to signal the beginning of the Anthropocene Epoch. The golden spike must be present globally and should be a part of deposits for geological record.
- Many in the AWG believe that artificial radionuclides spread across the world by atomic bomb tests from the early 1950s would serve as the golden spike. The radionuclides are present almost everywhere — from marine sediments to ice layers and even stalagmites and stalactites.
International Commission on Stratigraphy
- The International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) is one of the largest and most active non-governmental scientific organizations in the world.
- Founded in 1961, IUGS is a member of the International Council of Science.
- IUGS promotes and encourages the study of geological problems, especially those of world-wide significance, and supports and facilitates international and interdisciplinary cooperation in the earth sciences.
- India is an active member of IUGS
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- It is the largest and oldest constituent scientific body in the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS).
- Its primary objective is to precisely define global units (systems, series, and stages) of the International Chronostratigraphic Chart that, in turn, are the basis for the units (periods, epochs, and age) of the International Geologic Time Scale; thus setting global standards for the fundamental scale for expressing the history of the Earth.