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article imageHas Earth entered new geological age?

By Mark Shiffer     Jan 8, 2016 in Science
Humans may have created a new era in Earth's geological history. We have left a mark in the rocks, similar to what a meteorite did when it wiped out dinosaurs.
An international group of scientists are naming the alleged new epoch the Anthropocene period. Geological epochs are characterized as long periods of time, typically lasting millions of years, separated by major changes to the planet. New epochs are usually characterized by climate change and mass extinctions.
An example is the late Cretaceous period dominated by dinosaurs. That epoch and the era of dinosaurs ended after a meteorite smashed into Earth and caused massive disruptions to the planet.
The current era we have been living in has been called the Holocene epoch. The new theory suggests human activity has changed the Earth sufficiently as to cause major changes in sediment and ice, separating it from the Holocene era. Scientist favouring this theory believe the Anthropocene epoch started in the mid-20th century, when human population and consumption speeded up.
The Anthropocene Working Group has been studying the theory since 2009. The current geological age has not yet been officially changed. That is still to be decided by the International Commission on Stratigraphy, a scientific body that decides when epochs begin and end.
In its paper, the Anthropocene Working Group list a number of markers showing human interference. Among them are high amounts of radioactive fallout, concrete, plastic, and carbon.
Colin Waters, a geologist, believes a permanent geological record has been left by people. "Geologists in millions of years time will look back at and say, 'Something quite incredible happened at this time' and be quite precise about when it happened," he said.
Not all scientists are convinced that a new epoch has replaced the old one yet. Critics say the Earth hasn't had enough time to make new rock or absorb the man-made changes. More data may need to be collected.
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