The Anthropocene: Scientists respond to criticisms of a new geological epoch

‘Irreversible’ changes to the Earth provide striking evidence of new epoch, University of Leicester experts suggest

A team of academics led by the University of Leicester has responded to criticisms of the proposal to formalise a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene.

Geological critics of a formalised Anthropocene have alleged that the idea did not arise from geology; that there is simply not enough physical evidence for it as strata; that it is based more on the future than on the past; that it is more a part of human history than the immensely long history of the Earth; and that it is a political statement, rather than a scientific one.

Members of the international Anthropocene Working Group, including professors Jan Zalasiewicz, Colin Waters and Mark Williams of the University of Leicester’s Department of Geology and Dr Matt Edgeworth of the University’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History, have considered these various criticisms at length.

In a paper published in the journal Newsletters on Stratigraphy, the 27 co-author group suggests that the Anthropocene has already seen irreversible changes to the Earth, rather than just to human societies.

Professor Zalasiewicz explained: “As a striking and novel concept, the Anthropocene has attracted considerable support from geologists but also a range of criticism, questioning whether it should really join the Jurassic, the Pleistocene and other well-known units on the Geological Time Scale.

“This criticism is an essential part of the testing of this concept – for the Anthropocene to be taken seriously, the science behind it must be robust and based on sound evidence.

“Our research suggests changes to the Earth have resulted in strata that are distinctive and rich in geological detail through including such things as artificial radionuclides, plastics, fly ash, metals such as aluminium, pesticides and concrete.

“And, while the term does reflect change of significance to human society, and may be used in social and political discussions, it is based upon an independent reality.”

The Anthropocene – the concept that humans have so transformed geological processes at the Earth’s surface that we are living in a new epoch – was formulated by Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen in 2000.

It has since spread around not just the world of science, but also across the humanities and through the media into public consciousness.

It is now being analysed by an international group of scientists – the Anthropocene Working Group – as a potential new addition to the Geological Time Scale, which would be a major step in its global scientific recognition.

Professor Mark Williams said: “These responses do not mean that the Anthropocene will be instantly formalised. There is still much work to do to gather the evidence for a formal proposal based upon a ‘golden spike’ – a physical reference point in strata, somewhere in the world, to define the beginning of this proposed new epoch.

“And, the benefits of formalising the Anthropocene, both for geologists and for wider communities, still need to be demonstrated in detail. But, these comprehensive responses show that the Anthropocene cannot be dismissed as a scientific fad.

“Humans really have made epoch-scale changes to the Earth’s geology, and analysis of these changes towards their formalisation in geology will continue.”

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The paper, ‘Making the case for a formal Anthropocene Epoch: an analysis of ongoing critiques’, published in the journal Newsletters on Stratigraphy is freely available online at: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/schweiz/nis/pre-prints/content-nos_00_0_0000_0000_zalasiewicz_0385_prepub

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234 thoughts on “The Anthropocene: Scientists respond to criticisms of a new geological epoch

  1. As found on Twitter:

    The Anthropocene Creed

    I believe in CO2, the Gas Almighty,
    Creator of Warming on Earth.

    I believe in Climate Models, the only guides, our Lords.
    Which are conceived by the Navier-Stokes,
    Born to make climate scary
    Suffered under climate skeptics
    Were crucified by emails, dead and buried;
    They descended into Hell;
    On the Third Assessment Report they rose again from the dead;
    They ascended into policy heaven
    And sitteth on the right hand of the Administrator Almighty;
    From thence they shall come to judge the emitters and the dead.

    I believe in the Hot Spot;
    The Holy Scientific Consensus;
    The Communion of Experts;
    The forgiveness of emissions;
    The resurrection of Gaia;
    And the Gas Everlasting.
    Amen.

  2. Looks like some geologists are getting jealous of the attention that some climate scientists enjoy. Let’s hope the reputation of another branch of science isn’t about to get tarnished by its political branch.

  3. Looks like some geologists are getting jealous of the attention their climate change colleagues are enjoying. Let’s hope another branch of science isn’t about to get tarnished by its political wing.

  4. The key question is how are epochs defined.
    The proposed new epoch is defined based on biological processes. If prior epochs were also (partially) defined based on biological processes, then labeling this epoch as Anthropocene would not be inconsistent with past practices.

    • Are previous epochs based on biological processes? Yes, often. “They” try to put boundaries at something one can measure in the field and that’s usually the first or last appearance of some distinctive fossil. The whole geological/paleontological name thing is still kind of messy and untidy although it is (slowly) being systematized. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geologic_time_scale. FWIW, I think the Anthropocene is probably distinct enough to qualify as a subdivision but maybe closer to a Stage than an Era. Where to put it’s start date? I dunno? First appearance of worked tools? First appearance of artificial ceramics? First appearance of concrete? First appearance of discarded beer cans?

    • Yes, but you should give it 10 or 20 million years or so before dropping a tag on it. You can’t name epochs prospectively, only retrospectively.

    • It will be marked by layers of fossilized discarded ethics with heavier deposits in areas like East Anglia and Boulder, CO. There will be future arguments on whether the Anthropocene was truly a worldwide epoch till similar fossilized discarded ethics layers are discovered in Melbourne Australia and Auckland New Zealand indicating the period of extremely low ethics was indeed worldwide.

    • “The key question is how are epochs defined.”

      I think there is a more basic question of whether we are in a new epoch at all using criteria that have already been established and used to differentiate between prior epochs. I see a difference between a first hypothesis that mankind has caused a new epoch entirely by creating a brand new sedimentary layer and a second hypothesis that mankind has, through nuclear tests, plastic waste products, etc. simply placed our signature or marking on the same sedimentary layer that defines the current Holcene. It sounds like what is going on is the second situation, which makes me think that this is just some part of a propaganda campaign.

  5. As a science? Perfectly reasonable. Probably should be studied.

    But this is just politics.

  6. Three percent of the world’s land mass is urbanized. link The vast majority of the planet’s land mass is not much affected by humans.

    • It’s a bit more than just cities. For example in North America, we’ve managed to dot the countryside with artificial lakes, replace large areas of plains/prairies/forests with agriculture, alter the flow of rivers such that the Mississippi delta is washing away instead of building Southward, largely eliminate elm and chestnut from the Eastern forests, eliminate most large predators from many areas, etc,etc,etc. Not all of the changes are negative. Many of the plant and animal species that have been introduced are not a problem and some are beneficial. But humanity really is changing things in ways that will be detectable in the far distant future.

      • There is zero need for anyone to create a new label for our current times.

        That is a task for future anthropologists and geologists, when they’ve identified methods to certify and date our strata worldwide.

        Making this whole task of “naming” mankind’s current age as sheer hubris.

        While historians name civilizations’ progress as “stone age”, “copper age”, “brass age”, “iron age”; that does not mean that the same strata is evident and identifiable worldwide unless there just happen to be human artifacts found.

  7. While we have had an definite impact, I question if it is “era” forming. All life impacts the planet to some degree. The question is to what degree designates an “epoch”. But the reality is, all “eras” and “epochs” are merely arbitrary mankind definitions to group similar conditions into a handy talking tool. So man can define any group as an era or epoch. The planet will go its own way.

    • Since, in all likelyhood it looks like there won’t be many or any of us around in 100,000 years, it will be called the minsiculicene. A very thin marker layer of carbon dust and with a high concentration of iridium covering the remains of buildings and other structures and buried under multiple layers of silt and sand.

  8. The hubris of those people is staggering. Maybe in a hundred years, there may be solid evidence of mankind’s effect on the planet, but not now. But then that wouldn’t suit their needs. It’s all about politics and reinforcing their prejudices

      • No, in climate true believer minds, the sun shines out of their a$$es.
        The only thing “man made” about “climate change” is that it is created in the human mind. It is not based on observing reality.

      • I was trying to think of something to say that the universe revolves around large gassy giants (Them), but could not quite tie it in with Uranus.

      • Patrick brilliant! Possibly you could have put “I couldn’t get anything close to Uranus”.

  9. I wonder how thick the Anthropocene strata will finally become? Perhaps a few mm?

    From Kansas Geological Survey:
    Deposits judged to be Jurassic in age …{in Kansas, USA]. They consist primarily of varicolored shales and red sandstones and attain a maximum thickness of about 350 feet.

      • In part (and not to be cavalier or anything like that), the thickness varies depending upon the distance from the impact site in the offshore Yucatan. Close to the impact, you can find a layer several centimetres thick, reducing to a few millimetres, and finally to a “feather edge” (ICS definition) at remote locations.

      • Sly wolf K-T.. It’s er…. just a boundary. ‘Anthropocene Layer’ has some resonance, but, as an epoch, it’s premature. We wouldnt have called the Jurassic a “Period” when it had just begun. We would have to have waited until it’s over! If we had not been hit by a large bolide it may have lasted until the Pleistocene. I think Holocene is still going til the next glacial period when the tiny ‘layer’ will largely be scraped up again. Glass, concrete metals plastics…are all degradeable. The tropics may not be scraped but deterioration is quicker there.

        Assuming the Anthropocene is completed when we go extinct, yeah, but then who cares? If some green slime spitters come from another world they’ll simply see the Holocene as the interglacial before the last two or three of them or it will all just be nesting grounds.

    • If you think about this man has influenced very deep into the ground. Mine shafts are 1000’s feet deep. Building foundations are 100’s feet deep. We have altered a vast areas of the surface of the earth. 10 million years from now all this still be in evidence. It’s quite reasonable we have created a new epoch.

      It’s the name you can question….anthropoids are all higher apes….most have no to minute effect…..it should called something like the sapianocene

      • Locally there will be significant effects, but to warrant giving it a geological name, it needs to be present in large areas where someone arbitrarily digs in the future. If you’ve ever tried digging for archaeology – it’s not that easy to find it even though we know there’s a lot of it.

      • fly over the country and look out the window … we have not altered vast areas of the country … and if man suddenly disappeared in 100 years you would be hard pressed to find evidence of all this alteration …

      • 10 million years from now
        =====================
        human influence on the planet will be as evident as a hand removed from a bucket of water. Only the most sensitive of tests can reveal the hand was ever there.

      • A correction. Not many structures have foundations 100s of feet into the ground, that would be quite unusual indeed! The overwhelming majority of buildings have their foundations only a few feet into the ground!

      • More evidence that Jamie is probably a city dweller.
        No one who lives in rural areas would make the mistake of thinking that we have altered vast areas of the planet.

      • I agree with Jamie’s argument. A geologist of the future, even one of today, will need to account for earth moving activities that are extremely common and widespread. Concrete and asphaltic roadbeds are the most obvious elements. Every gravel based dirt road is evidence that man has passed this way and has altered the earths surface. Every surface mine, mine tailing, and mine reclamation, has indelibly left the mark of a geologic event occurring in the “Sapianpocene” or “Homocene”.

      • Ten million years from now there will be building foundations from this era? In what fantasy world to you live?

      • @Sheri, Where do you think thousands of tons of concrete is going to go? Even if it weathers, the soils and consolidated strata will be of obvious chemical differences to the surroundings.
        When Italian marble and Norwegian granite are found in a petrified Kansas landfill, you have to look beyond normal geologic processes for their provenance.

        If we can identify an Iridium layer worldwide to separate the Cretaceous from the Paleocene, I would be surprised that 200 years of tilling the Great Plains wouldn’t show up 10 million years from now as an unconformity boundary layer in the stratigraphic column.

        Getting down to the nitti-gritty, where does this “Man-influence” era/epoch start? I mentioned that large earth works, overturned sediments, mine workings, stone work and movement are an identifying characteristic of the strata. That being the case, the start of this era ought to include the Bronze age, the Pyramids, Stone buildings, and the copper, tin and gold mines of Africa and Asia.

      • Man’s earth moving activities pale compared to natures.
        Gravel roads disperse over time, in a few hundred years, without maintenance there will be no evidence that a gravel road ever existed.
        Concrete and asphalt roads may last for a bit longer.
        Once a pit mine has filled in from blowing dust it will be just another depression the bedrock.
        Mines might be evidence, assuming they haven’t collapsed or been filled in before then.

      • Once the concrete degrades and disperses, it’s pretty much indistinguishable from other deposits.
        As to the marks that farming leaves, that to will be erased once the prairie grasses and forests take control again.

      • 10 million years from now, the continents will not be the continents. So there may be some evidence. There may not. If man is still around in 10 million years, there will be. But even today, finding ancient cities is often a process of hit and miss. And they are only hundreds or thousands of years old. not 10 million.

      • @MarkW, Man’s earth moving activities pale compared to natures.

        That all depends upon the area. No amount of time will restore the coal seam being mined in the Black Warrior Basin. A geologic cross section drawn a million years in the future across any current mine workings is going to have unconformities in the coal seam or ore body and chaotic overburden that are inexplicable without the notion that they were previously worked by intelligent beings.

      • This would be prime space for sinking CO2. Grow hundreds of acres of fast growing trees. Harvest and replant every ten years and bury the trees in places like this old coal mine thereby sinking and sequestering the carbon long term.

      • @Bryan A, RE planting trees as reclamation of a coal mine.
        You might observe from the picture, that this isn’t prime tree growing country today in Wyoming. The coals were formed in the Paleocene and Eocene after the Cretaceous seaway retreated. http://www.wsgs.wyo.gov/energy/coal-prb

        I have suggested that the area of reclaimed surface coal mines should be a useful areas for large scale solar collection plants. The surface is already disturbed and no-need to traipse over hundreds of square miles of untouched desert. Roads, rails, and some electrical infrastructure are already in place to service the coal mine.

      • “Jamie March 24, 2017 at 5:26 am
        If you think about this man has influenced very deep into the ground. Mine shafts are 1000’s feet deep. Building foundations are 100’s feet deep. We have altered a vast areas of the surface of the earth. 10 million years from now all this still be in evidence. It’s quite reasonable we have created a new epoch.

        It’s the name you can question….anthropoids are all higher apes….most have no to minute effect…..it should called something like the sapianocene”

        A very condescending statement; meaning that you haven’t thought about it, nor do you expect us to think about. Instead you demean our current view(s), whatever they are, and insist we accept yours.

        Modern man’s several thousand year geological record is mere surface scrapings on a massive ball of iron, rock, dirt, life detritus with an amazing surface layer of water.

        Tunnels? After millions of years erosion, seepage, faulting, bat guano, surface animal nestings, and collapse will resemble many other natural cave systems.

        At ten to twenty feet per basement level, just how many buildings have ten or more floors underground?
        One place I worked had three basement levels; and the odd thing is they named the upper two basement levels “Promenade 1 & 2”.
        I earned some serious demerits when I asked one of the bosses, “Who do you expect to fool? No one I know would ever mistake a basement floor for any sort of promenade.”
        “Look at that guy! He put up a large picture of a sunlit window with flowers outside. He know exactly where he is.”
        That earned me a dour look without words.

        Ten million years seriously changes the face of the Earth. It is called erosion, tectonics, weathering, siltation, sedimentation, uplift and mountain building.
        Natural processes will reclaim and reconstruct every bit of Earth’s surface. Nothing will be wasted.

        Man’s few decades of modern living will leave few traces.
        Concrete weathers away.
        Gravel roads will erode spreading gravel over a wide area.
        Asphalt will lose most if not all volatiles and what is left will crumble and weather.

        Some portions of Roman roads will still exist. Roman road construction involved many layers of foundation at least two meters deep, with many roman roads built on three plus meters of road foundation.

        “Stephen Rasey March 24, 2017 at 9:09 am
        I agree with Jamie’s argument. A geologist of the future, even one of today, will need to account for earth moving activities that are extremely common and widespread. Concrete and asphaltic roadbeds are the most obvious elements. Every gravel based dirt road is evidence that man has passed this way and has altered the earths surface. Every surface mine, mine tailing, and mine reclamation, has indelibly left the mark of a geologic event occurring in the “Sapianpocene” or “Homocene”.

        There are multiple places on Earth where large populations lived. Populations whose civilization flourished up to several thousand years ago; though quite a few flourished just a few centuries ago.

        Buildings built with massive granite or basaltic rock still have foundations and large structures evident to tease modern man. Beyond pottery and few other enduring pieces of evidence, locating, reconstructing and fully understanding those civilizations is extremely difficult.
        Civilizations that existed during modern mankind’s flourishing. Yet their traces are rapidly disappearing.

        In a modern Western abode, your bathtub and tub are most likely to survive for long periods.

        Even stainless steel is only called stainless steel since surface chemical decomposition is slow in modern man terms. Geologically, that decomposition is still rapid.

        Plastics? Under exposure to our sun’s ultraviolet light, they will decompose and weather. Buried, again in geological time plastics will lose volatiles and plasticizers, leaving a brittle structure that will eventually pulverize into molecular dust.

        It will take very meticulous scientists through sheer perseverance great effort to sift and separate the remains of plastic. Unlike heavy minerals like carbide and diamond, sifting will require special effort to separate uniquely a lighter material without contamination.

        Under metamorphic conditions; e.g. when California through to Alaska are eroded onto the subducting continental plate. Well, maybe pockets of plastic hydrocarbon residues will be the genesis for new diamond crystal formation.

  10. With a name like ‘the international Anthropocene Working Group’ they have of course no bias i their ‘response to criticism’!
    I agree with Robert from oz – many more fitting names; I’ll write down a few on paper in the evening (and burn them later to avoid mods…) ;-)

  11. They largely relied on Marcott et al, 2013 to define the onset of the Anthropocene, despite the fact that one of the Marcott authors categorically stated that their reconstruction lacked the resolution to be used for such a purpose.

    I pointed this out to Dr. Waters in a very constructive email exchange and they admitted to a “minor” error in their 2016 paper

    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2016/01/08/run-away-the-anthropocene-has-arrived/

    Dr. Waters authorized me to post this passage from our email discussion…

    “The temperature curve in Figures 1B and 6B of the Science paper on the
    Anthropocene was derived from Marcott et al., Science 339, 2013.

    In the abridged version of the article the figure 14,000 should be
    amended to 1,400 to be consistent with what we say in the main body of the paper”.

    While still unsupported by the Marcott reconstruction, a rate of temperature change unprecedented in 1,400 years does not justify geological separation of an Anthropocene from the Holocene.

    • Especially since there’s not a scrap of empirical evidence that the said rate of temperature change has anything to do with CO2 levels of the minuscule human contribution thereto.

      • Another problem is that we only have proxies for 1500 years ago. So they are comparing time filtered proxy data against modern thermometer readings.
        Temperature changes back then could easily have been as fast as today, it’s just that the proxy data doesn’t show rapid changes.

    • We have had similar periods of warming in the past 300 years. Look at 1700. Luckily the Carbon Tax of 1740 stopped the warming otherwise the earth would have tipped over.

      • Holocene means “entirely recent” and it has been suggested a person living today would not be much surprised looking at Earth at the beginning of the Holocene versus now. I don’t know what “several” means but you likely would encounter significant differences in each of those.

    • Even the Holocene is going to be a brief epoch, since it’s just another interglacial.

      Epochs last millions or tens of millions of years, not thousands or tens of thousands. The epochs of our present Cenozoic Era before the Holocene lasted roughly ten, 22, eleven, 18, three and 2.6 million years.

      The Late Epoch of the Cretaceous Period (last of the Mesozoic Era) endured about 35 million years, and its Early Epoch around 45 million years.

      This proposal is absurd. If the activists really want an “Anthropocene”, then they already have one in the Holocene. Humans did cause extinctions early in this epoch.

    • I am not sure where the “golden spike” stratiographically defining the Pleistocene lies, but it is best defined by marine isotopic stage. If and when it happens during human tenure on the planet that our layer of plastic corresponds to an exit from the glacial fibrillations of the Pleistocene, we will have earned our epoch.

  12. How much more circular and anti-intellectual can the climate extremists get in their reasoning and still be taken seriously? The only thing significantly “man made” about climate is that the obsession over climate is that it is an artifact of obsessed and cynical people. The “climate crisis” exists in the minds of the the believers. Sort of like UFO belief.

    • “hunter March 24, 2017 at 4:20 am

      Sort of like UFO belief.”

      No way! That was a great TV show in the 70’s. I even had a working model of the “Interceptor”!

    • I’d say more like the belief in Purgatory and Limbo. At least UFO’s have a chance…”human induced climate catastrophe,” on the other hand, is nothing more than “hypothetical BS,” and has NO chance of ever being anything more than that.

      • I’m not sure. Purgatory and Limbo will never be seen by a living human being, nor will the effects of AGW, as the date for the start is ever further in the future. Pretty similar there.

  13. As long as these folks get zero public money and not ever considered a charity for tax deduction purposes, they can propose all the flat earth constructs they can imagine – and imagination is what it is.

  14. Hmmmm… The Anthropocene. Seems the team is excited by having caused a ripple in the pond. Actually they may have a good point. Humans do change the landscape and one day that landscape will become a stratographic layer.

    What would it contain? Perhaps sparrow carcasses from China’s attempt to increase grain harvests during the Great Leap Forward. Those might be found among lumps of pot metal from peoples smelters and dunce caps from the heads of insufficiently Red intellectuals. Maybe even a soiled copy of the little red book.

    As a Freshman I took a required course in critical thinking. It was taught by a Marxist professor utilizing many works by Noam Chomsky. This is like that.

    • I’ve spoken to people about it – and except for direct ruins (aka archaeology) the only widespead effect that will be seen is due to increased runoffs from some agricultural practices. In total it will be almost insignificant geologically and probably dwarfed by a single Tsunami.

  15. Quoting article:

    In a paper published in the journal Newsletters on Stratigraphy, the 27 co-author group suggests that the Anthropocene has already seen irreversible changes to the Earth, rather than just to human societies.

    The Anthropocene – the concept that humans have so transformed geological processes at the Earth’s surface that we are living in a new epoch

    “DUH”, therein the above, …….. one can easily see the “the reason for their madness”.

    Iffen that group of 27 co-authors can get their “Anthropocene” officially declared a separate and distinct Geologic Epic ….. then they truly believe they will be 1st in line to receive tens-of-million$-of-dollars in “FREE” government Grant monies made available to them for studying and researching that dastardly human caused problem.

    HA, tis “CAGW redux” ….. fer shur.

  16. This is similar in concept to Mike’s nature trick. This time the impatient are trying to glue current events onto geological records.

    The geological world already has the Holocene covering the period of the rise of human civilisation. Events include stone age, bronze age, iron age and the industrial revolution. I’m happy though for the current period being dubbed the Adjustocene to mark the onset of the post truth world.

    • Agreed. The cynical “adjust the past to advance the agenda” has a much larger effect on the “climate record” than any actual change in climate during the period “on record.”

  17. To put all this in context, I asked an archaeological group why artefacts sink into the ground. They said: “it’s well known it’s caused by earthworms”. I said “we’ve got NewZealand flat worms and so no earthworms.

    After that they were silent. This is the nature of academia. They are clueless about some of the simplest things in nature. But they are ever so quick to come up with some bizarre explanation or worse, to fabricate explanations for clearly political purposes.

    Which reminds me – I have some iron balls to bury. (No – not seriously, the iron balls are just going to sit on the ground, the pingpong balls are being buried).

  18. “‘Irreversible’ changes to the Earth provide striking evidence of new epoch, University of Leicester experts suggest”

    Expert: As in knows all the mystical incantations by rote.

    • Irreversible?
      Have you ever seen a parking lot after it’s been abandoned for just a couple of years?

      • True. About 15-20 years ago, someone dumped a pile of concrete about the size of a two story house in the field at the end of our street. Today it is less than half the original size and has been colonized by various botanical specimens. Concrete is being reduced to a form of sand. And fairly quickly at that.

  19. To “create” a new epoch requires much more than the emotional cry of anthropogenic global warming. It is essential that a full-scale, international field geological investigation, complemented by whatever may be needed in the laboratory, be undertaken and subjected to OBJECTIVE peer review. If, as a result, there are distinct characteristics represented by some temporal geological interval, recognized in different parts of the world, it would then seem that such an endeavor might actually allow for recognition,characterization and naming of a new epoch. Nothing less!

  20. I vote for the Adjustocene + 10. In a few hundred thousand years if anyone cares to look for it, most of the stratigraphy associated with it will consist of a thin layer with – so we keep being told – a staggeringly disproportionate carbon content. Evidently evidence of a vast volume of hot air laid down over about 40 years.

    • I think, as George Carlin put it, the only thing we’ll leave behind is “a little Styrofoam.”

      • The late George Carlin “Saving the Planet”

        We’re so self important….. And the greatest arrogance of all: “Save the Planet.”
        {Foul language warning}

        (youtube)

  21. I do believe we are missing out on the most appropriate name for this present era – Hubriscene.

  22. If the professors who promote the anthropocene, allied as their thinking is with luddite fanatics, have their ultimate way, here is what I predict. In a far distant future travelers from another world may indeed look at our strata and note a layer with much plastic, refined metals, concrete, and other signs of progress, and wonder how it all came to an end.

  23. It seems to me that we have epoch’s describing almost everything. Epoch’s also have subperiods called “ages”. The Pleistocene has four ages whereas the Holocene does not yet have any. The current epoch is the Holocene which includes the last 11,700 years. That seems to parallel closely to the “Anthropocene”. In fact, I would argue that the “Anthropocene” and the “Holocene” are the same epoch — otherwise, what separates the Holocene from other interglacial periods?

    Wikipedia includes this note (not referenced) “The Holocene also encompasses the growth and impacts of the human species worldwide, including all its written history, development of major civilizations, and overall significant transition toward urban living in the present.”

    Calling a new era of the Holocene the “Anthropocene” seems incredibly egotistical. This decade would be dominated by climate change shenanigans, but why not begin the “Anthropocene” with the scientific revolution or the atomic age or the computer age or the beginning of worldwide exploration or the beginning of genetic experimentation?

    • Agreed – the Holocene already has our “impacts” covered. This is just politically motivated vocabulary meant to perpetrate the Climate Change Eco-Fascism.

  24. Considering it isn’t even possible to prove we’ve left the Pleistocene, the idea of an Anthropocene is largely BS. Give us a few hundred thousand years to deposit a thick layer of styrofoam and circuit boards over the Earth’s surface — Then we’ll have something to consider.

  25. Can they even demonstrate any measured change in the rate of warming?
    Certainly not with the tidal gauges or satellite lower troposphere measurements

  26. The anthropocene epoch was rescinded on November 8, 2016. Check your calendars, it was a fake epoch.

  27. ‘Irreversible’ changes to the Earth provide striking evidence of new epoch, University of Leicester experts suggest”

    YAWN! ZZzzzzzzzz………………………………………………

  28. I have no problem with Anthropocene. A new period and subperiod are required because the Neoglacial period and the Sub-Atlantic subperiod, both ended with the LIA.

    During the Holocene subperiods (Boreal, Atlantic, Sub-Boreal, Sub-Atlantic) last ~ 2500 years and periods (Holocene Climatic Optimum, Neoglacial) ~ 5000 years.

    The new subperiod could be Anthropocene, while the new period could be the Preglacial.

    Anthropocene doesn’t mean that we are driving the climate, it can also mean that we believed we could change the climate, or that we became aware of long term climate changes.

    The name is not important. The important thing is that we realize the change that has taken place with the LIA.

    • The “change” you speak of is only the length of the averages. Using averages of different lengths creates a false impression – it is scientific fraud.

      • The more recent the geologic time period, the more “granularity” can be ascribed to it.

        We can “see” much detail of the Holocene than we can of prior Quaternary interglacial stages. So, there’s no problem with breaking it down into more deatailed subperiods.

    • “Periods” don’t end with “-cene”. These are more significantly historical periods than geologic periods. Ironically, the suboreal page on Wikipedia says, “During the subboreal the climate was generally dryer and slightly cooler (by about 0.1 °C) than in the preceding Atlantic, but still was warmer than today.”

      I wonder how that passed through the climate change censors on Wikipedia.

      I watched a documentary (Called 1173 BC”) which spoke at length about the end of the Bronze Age which happened to coincide with massive climate cooling and tectonic activity which led to worldwide droughts (and subsequent invasions of the “sea peoples”.) The period prior to this was clearly much warmer than today and was accompanied by a sustained period of peace and international commerce.

      Sort of like now.

      • The termination can be changed at any time to accommodate classification changes like Paleocene -> Paleogene.

        Indeed the Holocene is just the last of a long list of interglacials within the Pleistocene, so for all practical purposes the Pleistocene hasn’t ended, and the Holocene is just a convenient name for our interglacial.

        In any case we do need however a new name for the climatic period after the LIA, as the Neoglacial has been mostly reversed, even if we don’t need a new geological period. This was my proposal in a recent article:

        Figure 18. Solar cycles and temperatures during the Holocene. Major palinological subdivisions of the Holocene (names on top) match a 2500-yr regular spacing (light blue arches on top). (a) The global temperature reconstruction (black curve; Marcott et al., 2013 by the differencing method with proxy published dates) has been rescaled in temperature anomaly to match biological, glaciological, and marine sedimentary evidence, resulting in the Holocene Climate Optimum being about 1.2°K warmer than LIA (see Appendix). (b) The general temperature trend of the Holocene follows the Earth’s axis obliquity (purple), and significant downside deviations generally match the lows of the ~ 2400-year Bray cycle of solar activity (light blue bands labeled B-1 to B-4 that correspond to similar bands in previous figures). (c) Significant negative climate deviations manifest also in strong increases in iceberg detrital discharges (red curve, inverted; Bond et al., 2001) that generally agree well with the lows in the ~ 2400-year Bray cycle and ~ 1000-year Eddy cycle (orange bands) of solar activity. (d) Solar activity reconstruction (Steinhilber et al., 2012) shows that the majority of grand solar minima correspond very well with Bond events and tend to occur at the lows of the Bray (light blue bars) and Eddy (orange bars) cycles. Significant Holocene climate changes tend to occur when Bray and Eddy cycle lows coincide, like at the Mid-Holocene Transition that ended the Holocene Climatic Optimum and started the Neoglacial period, and the LIA that started the Current Warm Period, now proposed to be named Anthropocene. The regular spacing of the ~ 1000-yr Eddy cycle is shown by orange arches at bottom. Solar cycles can be projected into the future, when the situation could be analogous to interglacial MIS 19 (Marine Isotope Stage) AIM C (Antarctic Isotope Maximum) that is likely to represent a natural global warming event at 771 kyr BP (e). Considering all these factors, temperatures can be projected into the future (f) defining a Pre-Glacial period that could end around 4000 AD in the next glacial inception.

        By the way, that article has a lot of information on cultural changes caused by climatic changes during the Holocene, including the 3.2 kyr event.
        https://judithcurry.com/2016/09/20/impact-of-the-2400-yr-solar-cycle-on-climate-and-human-societies/

      • My only problem is the name and “cene” ending that makes it sound like an epoch. An epoch requires a type section, otherwise it isn’t an epoch. There isn’t even an agreed type section for the Holocene, so it formally is not an epoch and should be renamed as well. After the next glacial period, our descendants can measure some sections and decide what to call the Holocene and how to divide it. This is another case of someone trying to replace data with a model and we know how that works out!

      • Anthropomian… Anthropomonian… Anthrporeal… just don’t have the same “ring” as Anthropocene.

        Maybe the Anthropic Substage. The bottom member would be the first appearnce of Styrofoam and the top member would be the last appearance of Homo sapiens in the future fossil record. Dr. Zaius would probably approve.

      • Periods within the Pleistocene carry the ~ian termination (Calabrian, Ionian, Tarantian), so a more correct name would be Anthropian.

        Ceramic, brick, cement, glass. There are a lot of man-made durable materials that can be found in sediments even if plastics tun out not to last enough.

        Another problem that should be settled is the lack of proper name for glacial and interglacial periods. The MIS denomination, while convenient has a lot of problems, and names are usually regional, for example the Eemian in Europe is the Sangamonian in the US, and the Ipswichian (UK), Mikulin (Russia), Kaydaky (Black Sea), Valdivia (Chile) or Riss-Würm (the Alps) elsewhere. The same goes for glacial periods, the Weichselian glaciation is also the Vistulian, Würm, Devensian, and Wisconsian.

        The geologists have a lot of cleaning to do in their house before getting to the Anthropocene. At least finally last year climatologists agreed on what is and what isn’t an interglacial:
        Past Interglacial Working Group of PAGES. Interglacials of the last 800,000 years. Rev. Geophys. 54, 162–219 (2016).
        https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/1810/252679/Berger_et_al-2016-Reviews_of_Geophysics-VoR.pdf?sequence=5&isAllowed=y

      • Javier,

        It would appear that your recommendations are based on recent temperature regimes rather than stratigraphic markers.

        Historically, epochs have been named with a suffix of “cene” and have lasted for tens of millions of years, with the notable exceptions of the Pleistocene and Holocene. As many here have remarked, even using the term Holocene is a departure from past practices and essentially covers what some want to call the Anthropocene. I think that Any May’s remark below summarizes the situation well.

      • Periods within the Pleistocene carry the ~ian termination (Calabrian, Ionian, Tarantian), so a more correct name would be Anthropian.

        Ceramic, brick, cement, glass. There are a lot of man-made durable materials that can be found in sediments even if plastics tun out not to last enough.

        Another problem that should be settled is the lack of proper name for glacial and interglacial periods. The MIS denomination, while convenient has a lot of problems, and names are usually regional, for example the Eemian in Europe is the Sangamonian in the US, and the Ipswichian (UK), Mikulin (Russia), Kaydaky (Black Sea), Valdivia (Chile) or Riss-Würm (the Alps) elsewhere. The same goes for glacial periods, the Weichselian glaciation is also the Vistulian, Würm, Devensian, and Wisconsian.

        The geologists have a lot of cleaning to do in their house before getting to the Anthropocene. At least finally last year climatologists agreed on what is and what isn’t an interglacial:
        Past Interglacial Working Group of PAGES. Interglacials of the last 800,000 years. Rev. Geophys. 54, 162–219 (2016).
        https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/1810/252679/Berger_et_al-2016-Reviews_of_Geophysics-VoR.pdf?sequence=5&isAllowed=y

      • Periods within the Pleistocene carry the ~ian termination (Calabrian, Ionian, Tarantian), so a more correct name would be Anthropian.

        Ceramic, brick, cement, glass. There are a lot of man-made durable materials that can be found in sediments even if plastics tun out not to last enough.

        Another problem that should be settled is the lack of proper name for glacial and interglacial periods. The MIS denomination, while convenient has a lot of problems, and names are usually regional, for example the Eemian in Europe is the Sangamonian in the US, and the Ipswichian (UK), Mikulin (Russia), Kaydaky (Black Sea), Valdivia (Chile) or Riss-Würm (the Alps) elsewhere. The same goes for glacial periods, the Weichselian glaciation is also the Vistulian, Würm, Devensian, and Wisconsian.

        The geologists have a lot of cleaning to do in their house before getting to the Anthropocene. At least finally last year climatologists agreed on what is and what isn’t an interglacial:
        Past Interglacial Working Group of PAGES. Interglacials of the last 800,000 years. Rev. Geophys. 54, 162–219 (2016).
        https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/1810/252679/Berger_et_al-2016-Reviews_of_Geophysics-VoR.pdf?sequence=5&isAllowed=y

  29. If this new Epoch is to be a layer on top of other layers to be in the future under another layer does this mean the Earth is getting bigger ?

  30. Maybe this idea of an era defined by human activity is not worth debating much. But other geological eras are defined on the basis of what life did: the evolution of oxygen-producing photosynthesis radically changed the whole planet, and the last 560 million years is called the Phanerozoic, i.e. the era of visible (large, complex, eukaryotic) life. In the last 10,000 years or so, the human species has certainly exerted a major impact on the Earth and the biosphere, via hunting and extermination of animal species, systematic agriculture, cities, technology, mining and waste production. It’s not bad to simply recognise these facts.

    • PH,

      It isn’t just what life did, (after all most of the Earth’s history was lifeless!). More commonly it is physical features that geologists call disconformities, unconformities, and non-conformities that have served as markers of the end of one era and the beginning of another. These represent periods of time in which there was either little deposition of sediments (hiatus), or periods of ocean transgression where erosion took place along the seashore, or long periods of continental erosion that removed whole mountain ranges and created significant loss of the rock record. Thus, there is a missing fossil record as well. While elevated iridium content is a defining characteristic of the Cretaceous boundary, it can generally be recognized in the field as a thin carbonaceous layer. These are events typically driven by plate tectonics or cataclysmic astronomical events such as a bolide impact. These geologic processes created basins of deposition, formerly called geosynclines, that accumulated tens of thousands of feet of sediments. Humans haven’t come close to having such an influence.

      Anything short of a nuclear holocaust that destroys everything on Earth, and sets the groundwork for evolution of new life forms, there is no widespread, defining rock features that would be mappable with continuity in any future geologic mapping. Such an event might be an appropriate marker for the end of an “Anthropocene.” The then future geologists cant worry at that time about some defining marker of the beginning of the “Anthropocene.” However, this is all speculation and the proposal ignores the tradition of a significant break in the rock record that is usually clearly visible in outcrops over large areas of the Earth.

      Some of the things being cited as evidence for the “Anthropocene” are clearly anthropologically important, but they are not ‘geological’ as we have come to know the term. Without the benefit of hindsight, we can’t be sure just how visible Man’s influence will be millions of years from now.

      • Life arose on Earth about four billion years ago, so only the first ~500 million years were lifeless.

        But you’re right that not all geological divisions are based upon what life did then. Some of the eons, eras, periods and epochs are however named after the type of living things found in them. But not all, by any means.

      • Chimp,

        When the geologic time scale was created, geologists basically thought that life started in the Cambrian, and everything that happened before that was largely unknown. Thus, the model for eras, periods, and epochs was based on stratigraphy and the breaks in the stratigraphic record. The observation that fossils changed between stratigraphic units was a freebie that came along with the stratigraphic divisions. The names of the eras acknowledge the presence and evolution of life, but they are not named for a particular life form. Thus, we don’t have a ‘Dinozoic’ or ‘Dinocene.’ Other than the “Carboniferous,” nothing comes immediately to mind as being a naming strategy based on a particular species of life. Even there, it was named for the abundant coal deposits, not a particular form of life other than generic cellulosic forms the grew in swamps and turned into coal.

        There is no historical precedent for the equivalent of “Anthropocene.”

        I haven’t been keeping up with the changes in the geologic time scale, so I could be wrong about this. If I am wrong, I will gladly acknowledge it.

    • It’s not a matter of recognizing current facts.

      The issue it what sort of mark the current facts will make in the future geologic record.

      • David,

        And my position is that nothing Man is currently doing will result in the kind of unconformities that have served as markers for past divisions of time. The ‘fossils’ that Man has been leaving behind since the first piece of flint was worked have been evolving into more complicated and sophisticated tools. However, it is essentially a continuous record that has not been broken by geologic events of the magnitude of an orogeny. While we may be contributing to an onlap of the oceans along the coastlines, it seems that, in most places on Earth, isostatic rebound and plate tectonics activities overwhelm what increase in sea level seems to be taking place. I can’t imagine anything that Man is doing will create another great seaway in the interior of North America such as was the situation during the Cretaceous.

  31. Anthropocene? O really? Another fine example of the white patriarchy at work in academia.

    If there were any social justice in the world the 27 authors should immediately make a grovelling apology via twitter for their lack of diversity and rename it the LGBTIscene.

    /sarc

  32. “In a paper published in the journal Newsletters on Stratigraphy, the 27 co-author group suggests that the Anthropocene has already seen irreversible changes to the Earth, rather than just to human societies.”

    What “reversible” changes ever happened?

    I’m okay with this as long as we rename the geological periods during which the dinosaurs lived as the “Dinopocene”.

  33. When doing neutron activation analysis of rock samples in college in the 80’s I was told we were using a steel cylinder manufactured prior to 1945 as the detection chamber because anything manufactured after that date would have higher than natural levels of radioactivity emitting from the steel. That would seem to indicate that sediments deposited everywhere after that date would be clearly distinguishable from those deposited earlier by their radioactivity.
    I would argue that that is one important criterion for defining an epoch: it must be detectable in the rocks that are laid down, whether by chemical means, fossils, change of environment, etc. That’s one way I think those who argue for the beginning of agriculture as a significant line miss the mark – it affects existing sediments but may not clearly alter the nature of new ones, especially in it’s early days.
    Of course it’s already been pointed out in other threads that the Holocene definition already includes influence by man.
    So while the bomb was a big historical event, and a recognizable geologic one, does it warrant a subdivision of an epoch that already recognizes man’s influence? Ya got me.

      • That’s true for most of the radioactive products but the original enriched uranium from a fission bomb will be around for a long, long time.

  34. My understanding of geological eras is that they make identifiable strata in the Earth’s record. To do that, surely they would need a little bit of time for strata to form? To do that, I am pretty sure it takes more than a few centuries.

    This strikes me more of a clear display of human vanity – oooh, look at us! We are sooo important – look, we have our own strata!

  35. Heck, even the idea of breaking out the Pleistocene and Holocene separately is fairly ridiculous. What, will we have all these little designations for every wiggle of glacials and interglacials within the Quaternary?

  36. With 27 co-authors crammed on to this vanity bandwagon, it can’t possibly be about getting themselves associated with a stupid idea.

  37. There is homo lineage back to a 2.8m-year-old jaw and five teeth found on rocky slope in Afar region.
    Why not say that is when Homo began making strata “distinctive and rich in geological detail?”

    Is this all about Model Ts and SUVs? Then (roughly) pick 1800. Beginning of internal combustion engines was in the previous decade. This would mark the beginning of the transition away from horse-power, recognized by a boundary between much Horse s. and little Horse s.

  38. The height of ego stroking would be snapping a selfie of yourself at a computer screen where there was an article that you wrote about how to snap the ideal selfie, while somebody else made a video of you doing this.

    Egocene wins.

  39. I strongly recommend that readers of this blog read the following paper on this that I wrote:

    http://episodes.org/index.php/epi/article/view/79720/61837

    For the record, NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE, in the ICS working group on this topic ever contacted me about my paper. I even email the link to the chairman and his deputy and although receiving acknowledgements of receipt of that email, never received a response to my commentary. SO, when they state that the answered the criticisms, that is not exactly true.

    George Devries Klein, PhD, PG, FGSA

    • For some reason that link did not work for me. I did try a search on that article in the journal. It’s listed [Title: The “ANTHROPOCENE”: What is its Geological Utility? (Answer: It has None!)], but the link would not pull up a document.

      I’d be curious if the editor or anyone from that journal was contacted by this working group.

  40. OZYMANDIAS

    I met a traveller from an antique land
    Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
    Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
    Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
    And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
    Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
    The hand that mock’d them and the heart that fed.
    And on the pedestal these words appear:
    “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
    Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
    Nothing beside remains: round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.

    Percy Bysshe Shelley

  41. These academics want to consider “artificial radionuclides” as a geological feature. Those trace of a trace elements make up perhaps 1.0 x 10⁻⁵⁰ of the Earth’s surface. Geologically, they are beyond insignificant. We’ve stumbled into the homeopathy wing of the climate science loony bin. Run away! Run away!

  42. Hysteriacene – the age when no decade could pass without a planet destroying, top priority catastrophic problem to solve!

    Taxacene – the age when a tax on any problem could change the world

  43. “But, these comprehensive responses show that the Anthropocene cannot be dismissed as a scientific fad.

    It hasn’t been long enough to make that determination. Why jump the gun? It’s not like the Pleistocene was given that name when it first began. It was named after the fact. If the “Anthropocene” designation does turn out to be a scientific fad and gets reversed, it may receive the nickname Flipflopocene in honor of these people.

  44. As far as I’m concerned, we are still in the Pleistocene. The Holocene is just an inter-glacial.

  45. Douglas Adams got there first with his description of a an entire archaeological layer of shoes, caused by “The Shoe Event Horizon”.

  46. The identifying fossil of the Anthropocene will be the smart phone, present in all continents, rapidly evolving, and thin enough to span the entire thin sedimentary layer that represents this time period.

  47. It is really too early to have declared the Pleistocine over and have started the Holocene. Maybe we should wait at least two million years before decideing whether the Pleistocine should be declared over let alone decide when the Holocene should be declared over. The last ice age and the current interglacial period are not that different from the previous several ice ages and interglacial periods except that the current interglacial period has been cooler then the previous 3 intergalcial periods. A major concern should be that CO2 levels have become dangerously low over the past several millions of years but I belieived that the burning of fossil fuels have helped the situation at least somewhat. Maybe we should be doing more to release carbon that is tied up in carbonate rocks so that plant life can make use of it.

  48. Geolocalky we allready have the “Recent”, and the “Present” (=1950). So “AP” covers the Anthropogene Event adeqately. There is not even a scientific concensus when this Epoch should start.

  49. I think people should remember that of all of the 7 man made wonders of the ancient world, only the Great pyramid at Giza remains. Most of the others were put asunder by massive natural geological events. We humans and our works are but speck in Geologic time and to believe our activities during our miniscule time as a part of the fauna of this planet warrant the name for a new Geologic Epoch is just plain silly. Of course what does a truck driver know?

  50. Very, interesting… from my point of view…..the most interesting was Lord Monkcton…the rest…..as far as I can tell rendered to be only rubbish…at some point likely more in the terms of extreme one, no different in essential than the AGW, with only one distinction…. where the AGW rocks and this guys do not at all….
    A full and most “fuck up” possible, under any cards….

    Thanks very much to the good Lord M.,,,,, the rest mostly rubbish…..regardless….. no much there, of any difference,,,,,, where liberal or conservative in essential have no much difference in it all when it comes to power…..maybe not too bad….but still too fucked up……

    A real waste…of politics!

    Cheers

    • oh…shite…my comment is in the wrong post..its suppose to be in the previous one, the Eric’s one….and the Heartland site….

      really sorry..

      cheers

  51. Of course this is political. Most science coming from universities is political. That’s the threat to science and humanity. Most times when sience is turned political at this scale people get abused, fleeced and eventually killed. UN Agenda 21 anyone? http://green-agenda.com

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