Epochs, events and episodes

Colin N. Waters, Mark Williams, Jan Zalasiewicz, Simon D. Turner, Anthony D. Barnosky, Martin J. Head, Scott L. Wing, Michael Wagreich, Will Steffen, Colin P. Summerhayes, Andrew B. Cundy, Jens Zinke, Barbara Fiałkiewicz-Kozieł, Reinhold Leinfelder, Peter K. Haff, J. R. McNeill, Neil L. Rose, Irka Hajdas, Francine M.G. McCarthy, Alejandro Cearreta, Agnieszka Gałuszka, Jaia Syvitski, Yongming Han, Zhisheng An, Ian J. Fairchild, Juliana A. Ivar do Sul, Catherine Jeandel

Event stratigraphy is used to help characterise the Anthropocene as a chronostratigraphic concept, based on analogous deep-time events, for which we provide a novel categorization. Events in stratigraphy are distinct from extensive, time-transgressive ‘episodes’ – such as the global, highly diachronous record of anthropogenic change, termed here an Anthropogenic Modification Episode (AME). Nested within the AME are many geologically correlatable events, the most notable being those of the Great Acceleration Event Array (GAEA). This isochronous array of anthropogenic signals represents brief, unique events evident in geological deposits, e.g.: onset of the radionuclide ‘bomb-spike’; appearance of novel organic chemicals and fuel ash particles; marked changes in patterns of sedimentary deposition, heavy metal contents and carbon/nitrogen isotopic ratios; and ecosystem changes leaving a global fossil record; all around the mid-20th century. The GAEA reflects a fundamental transition of the Earth System to a new state in which many parameters now lie beyond the range of Holocene variability. Globally near-instantaneous events can provide robust primary guides for chronostratigraphic boundaries. Given the intensity, magnitude, planetary significance and global isochroneity of the GAEA, it provides a suitable level for recognition of the base of the Anthropocene as a series/epoch.

Department of Geology
External organisation(s)
University of Leicester, University College London, Université catholique de Louvain, Stanford University, Brock University, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Australian National University, Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Southampton, Adam Mickiewicz University, Freie Universität Berlin (FU), Duke University, Georgetown University, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, University of the Basque Country, Jan Kochanowski University in Kielce, University of Colorado, Boulder, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), University of Birmingham, Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung, Université Toulouse III Paul Sabatier
Earth-Science Reviews
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
105112 Historical geology
ASJC Scopus subject areas
Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)
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