Did the Anthropocene begin with the nuclear age?

Earth
A composite image of the Western hemisphere of the Earth. Credit: NASA

An international group of scientists has proposed a start date for the dawn of the Anthropocene - a new chapter in the Earth's geological history.

Humans are having such a marked impact on the Earth that they are changing its geology, creating new and distinctive strata that will persist far into the future. This is the idea behind the Anthropocene, a new epoch in Earth history proposed by the Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen just 15 years ago. Since then the idea has spread widely through both the sciences and humanities.

But if the Anthropocene is to be a geological epoch – when should it begin? Humans have long affected the environment, and ideas as to when the Anthropocene might start range from the thousands of years ago with the dawn of agriculture, to the Industrial Revolution – and even to the future (for the greatest human-made changes could still be to come).

Now, members of the international working group formally analysing the Anthropocene suggest that the key turning point happened in the mid-twentieth century. This was when humans did not just leave traces of their actions, but began to alter the whole Earth system. There was a 'Great Acceleration' of population, of carbon emissions, of species invasions and extinctions, of earth moving, of the production of concrete, plastics and metals.

It included the start, too, of the nuclear age, when artificial radionuclides were scattered across the Earth, from the poles to the Equator, to be leave a detectable signal in modern strata virtually everywhere.

The proposal, signed up to by 26 members of the working group, including lead author Dr Jan Zalasiewicz, who also chairs the working group, and Professor Mark Williams, both of the University of Leicester's Department of Geology, is that the beginning of the Anthropocene could be considered to be drawn at the moment of detonation of the world's first nuclear test: on July 16th 1945. The beginning of the nuclear age, it marks the historic turning point when humans first accessed an enormous new energy source – and is also a time level that can be effectively tracked within , using a variety of geological clues.

Dr Zalasiewicz said: "Like any geological boundary, it is not a perfect marker – levels of global radiation really rose in the early 1950s, as salvoes of bomb tests took place. But it may be the optimal way to resolve the multiple lines of evidence on human-driven planetary change. Time - and much more discussion - will tell."

This year, the Anthropocene Working Group will put together more evidence on the Anthropocene, including discussion of possible alternative time boundaries. In 2016, the group aims to make recommendations on whether this new time unit should be formalized and, if so, how it might be defined and characterised.


Explore further

Scientists put mankind's technological impact on the planet to the test

More information: "When did the Anthropocene begin? A mid-twentieth century boundary is stratigraphically optimal." Quaternary International. dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2014.11.045
Journal information: Quaternary International

Citation: Did the Anthropocene begin with the nuclear age? (2015, January 15) retrieved 19 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2015-01-anthropocene-nuclear-age.html
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Jan 15, 2015
Perhaps we should start a new and far more rational calender system where year one isn't idiotically some arbitrary date of the birth of some person who started yet another irrational religion (like all of them) that resulted in the murder of millions but rather year one is what we currently call year 1945 because at least that makes it a bit less arbitrary because at least we can scientifically pin that year down by analyzing tiny traces of radioactivity in the rock strata.
If 1945 becomes year 1, this year of 2015 will become year 71.
Or, alternatively, if we make this new calendar zero-based for mathematical reasons so year 1945 becomes year 0, this year of 2015 will become year 70.

Jan 15, 2015
...

The only real problem is trying to do a quick conversion from BC to Atomic...

I have got so sick of religious nuts saying obnoxious things like "it is now year 2015 of our Lord Jesus Christ" that personally think it is worth it!
If this is done, I assume eventually no one would do the conversion (except a few religious nuts that will not adapt ) and instead just stick to the new 'atomic years'.
Pity this will not happen any time soon nor in my life time -but I can still dream.
I declare this year to be year 70.

Jan 15, 2015
...

The only real problem is trying to do a quick conversion from BC to Atomic...

I have got so sick of religious nuts saying obnoxious things like "it is now year 2015 of our Lord Jesus Christ" that personally think it is worth it!
If this is done, I assume eventually no one would do the conversion (except a few religious nuts that will not adapt ) and instead just stick to the new 'atomic years'.
Pity this will not happen any time soon nor in my life time -but I can still dream.
I declare this year to be year 70.


Just wait until the jihadis come for you.

The revolting truth: https://www.youtu...F-ygmUEs


Jan 15, 2015
Time to bring on the star dates, ala Star Trek...

Jan 15, 2015
You could use the year of MY birth - 1954 - as a starting point...:-) Close enough...

Jan 15, 2015
Thought we were in the Cenozoic era in the Quaternary period of the Holocene epoch. Wouldn't the Anthropocene just be a continuation of the Neolithlic revolution? Dated as 11,700 BP (before present) Absolutely agree the introduction and diffusion of artificial isotopes throughout the environment has left a significant time domain. In a sense it is just another technical innovation of fire. Relabeling a period of time will in no way remove us from the interglacial period. Even a concerted human effort to warm the atmosphere will not avert the next ice age. When it comes, it may last a quarter million years and crush all the efforts of humans into dust under kilometers of ice. Play with the language if you must, we can only hope it leads others to a better understanding of our place in time.

Jan 16, 2015

Just wait until the jihadis come for you.

The revolting truth: https://www.youtu...F-ygmUEs



I just looked at that video. I am not sure if it is supposed to be taken as a sarcastic joke or the author of the video actually expects us to moronically take such an absurd biased view seriously.
I note in particular it didn't mention the Nazis, all the leading ones in WW2 being both white and Christian without a single exception including Hitler himself, oppressing freedom and murdering millions.of men , woman, and children many in gas chambers.
I guess the reason why the video is against Barack Obama is because he is black and Jesus wasn't.

Jan 16, 2015
The "Anthropocene" OUGHT to be defined as the year when we "Anthropos" started consuming more than the Earth could replace. (Thus making man shaped change inevitable and unrecoverable by natural means.)

But as in 2014 we had used a years worth by August there would be a huge debate as to when we crossed the line of making a years worth last till January 1st.
But its a debate worth having and the result would be a committee decision; as was the birth of Christ date: And a lot of people would call it arbitrary and call for another change....

Jan 16, 2015

Just wait until the jihadis come for you.

The revolting truth: https://www.youtu...F-ygmUEs



I just looked at that video. I am not sure if it is supposed to be taken as a sarcastic joke or the author of the video actually expects us to moronically take such an absurd biased view seriously.
I note in particular it didn't mention the Nazis, all the leading ones in WW2 being both white and Christian without a single exception including Hitler himself, oppressing freedom and murdering millions.of men, woman, and children many in gas chambers.
I guess the reason why the video is against Barack Obama is because he is black and Jesus wasn't -so much for the so-called white-christen promotion of tolerance and freedom.

-sorry for the double post -don't know how I did that.

Jan 18, 2015
I've always thought the beginning of the Columbian exchange would make a nice starting date for the Antrhopocene.

https://en.wikipe...Exchange

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