Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Space Travel News .

A new chapter in Earth history
by Staff Writers
Leicester, UK (SPX) May 15, 2015

File image.

An international group of scientists has proposed that fallout from hundreds of nuclear weapons tests in the late 1940s to early 1960s could be used to mark the dawn of a new geological age in Earth history - the Anthropocene.

The study, led by Dr Colin Waters of the British Geological Survey, published new research in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The research involved 10 members of the Anthropocene Working Group that is chaired by Professor Jan Zalasiewicz of the Department of Geology at the University of Leicester and Gary Hancock, a world expert on plutonium in the environment.

The researchers state that the mid-twentieth century coincides with the 'Great Acceleration' of human population growth, economic development and industrialization. The emergence of megacities, facilitated by the production of huge quantities of concrete, is coincident with earth movement on a vast scale.

Mineral exploitation has resulted in the generation of marked geochemical signatures across the globe and this age of hydrocarbon burning has resulted in greatly increased carbon emissions. Humanity's modification of the planet has caused an increase in species extinctions and invasions. All these features are being expressed in the sediments accumulating across the planet and will be recognizable to the geoscientists of the far future.

They pose the question: "If the sum of these changes is a recognition that we now live in a new epoch, the Anthropocene, how can we define when it started?"

The standard practice for defining geological time units is to identify a single reference point (or "golden spike") that fixes the lower boundary of the time unit within a succession of rock or sediment layers. The boundary should be characterized by a signature that is both rapidly developed and wide-spread. The proposal led by Dr Waters is that the programme of atmospheric nuclear weapons testing may have generated such a signature.

Dr Waters said: "It is sobering to think that the actions of humanity over a few short years in the mid-20th century created such large amounts of artificial radionuclides that scattered across the Earth as fallout, producing a signal in modern strata that, in the case of plutonium, will be a detectable for about 100,000 years into the future".

Starting with the 1945 detonation of the Trinity device in New Mexico, the extent of such fallout was initially quite localized. But with the introduction in 1952 of the much larger "thermonuclear" or "hydrogen" weapons tests, the fallout dispersed over the entire Earth surface.

The amount of fallout peaked in 1962, the year before the Partial Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty largely drove the nuclear detonations underground. The 1952 rise in abundance of the isotope plutonium-239 is preferred as it is rare in nature, is a significant component of fallout, is relatively immobile in sediments, has a long half-life so will persist long into the future and the rise is broadly coincident with the onset of the "Great Acceleration".

Professor Zalasiewicz said: "The Anthropocene has struck a chord in the wider world that none of the other geological time units have done - not even the dinosaur-haunted Jurassic. Human beings don't merely inhabit the world. They alter it, on an increasingly epic scale."

In 2016, the Anthropocene Working Group hopes to make recommendations on whether this new time unit should be formalized and, if so, how it might be defined and characterized.

Waters, C.N., Syvitski, J.P.M., Gauszka, A., Hancock, G.J., Zalasiewicz, J., Cerreata, A., Grinevald, J., Jeandel, C, McNeill, J.R., Summerhayes, C., Barnosky, A. Published online. Can nuclear weapons fallout mark the beginning of the Anthropocene Epoch? Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Vol. 71(3) 46-57

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only


Related Links
University of Leicester
All About Human Beings and How We Got To Be Here

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Can skull shape determine what food was on prehistoric plates
New York NY (SPX) May 05, 2015
When paleontologists put together a life history for a long-extinct animal, it's common to infer the foods it ate by looking at modern animals with similar skull shapes and tooth patterns. But this practice is far from foolproof. New modeling and tests based on living species done at the American Museum of Natural History show that the link between animal diets and skull biomechanics is complex, ... read more

'Team Patrick-Cape' supports Pad Abort Test

Local launch expertise; world-wide attention

Successful SpaceX escape test 'bodes well for future'

ILS And Dauria announce Proton/Angara dual launch services agreement

Student Mars Rover team will compete in Utah desert

NASA Announces Journey to Mars Challenge

UAE says on track to send probe to Mars in 2021

4,000+ Martian Days of Work on Mars!

NASA's LRO Moves Closer to the Lunar Surface

European Space Agency Director Wants to Set Up a Moon Base

Russia Invites China to Join in Creating Lunar Station

Japan to land first unmanned spacecraft on moon in 2018

Possible Polar Cap on Pluto Detected

Capstone: 2015

NASA's New Horizons Nears Historic Encounter with Pluto

Pluto, now blurry, will become clear with NASA flyby

Astrophysicists offer proof that famous image shows forming planets

Astronomers detect drastic atmospheric change in super Earth

New exoplanet too big for its star

Robotically discovering Earth's nearest neighbors

Israel announces rocket propulsion system test

German-born engineer from US space team dies

Pad Abort Test a Unique Evaluation Opportunity

Successful testing of High Thrust Cryogenic Engine

3D printer making Chinese space suit parts

Xinhua Insight: How China joins space club?

Chinese scientists mull power station in space

China completes second test on new carrier rocket's power system

Meteors from Halley's Comet

New bid to contact Europe's comet probe

Tracking Japan's asteroid impact mission

Ceres' Bright Spots Come Back Into View

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.