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When did the Anthropocene begin? A mid-twentieth centuryboundary level is stratigraphically optimal
Zalasiewicz,J(Zalasiewicz,Jan)[1]; Waters,CN(Waters,Colin N)[2]; Williams,M(Williams,Mark)[1]; Barnosky,AD(Barnosky,Anthony D)[3]; Cearreta,A(Cearreta,Alejandro)[4]; Crutzen,P(Crutzen,Paul)[5]; Ellis,E(Ellis,Erle)[6]; Ellis,MA(Ellis,Michael A)[2]; Fairchild,IJ(Fairchild,Ian J)[7]; Grinevald,J(Grinevald,Jacques)[8]; Haff,PK(Haff,Peter K)[9]; Hajdas,I(Hajdas,Irka)[10]; Leinfelder,R(Leinfelder,Reinhold)[11]; McNeill,J(McNeill,John)[12]; Odada,EO(Odada,Eric O)[13]; Poirier,C(Poirier,C)[14]; Richter,D(Richter,Daniel)[15]; Steffen,W(Steffen,Will)[16]; Summerhayes,C(Summerhayes,Colin)[17]; Syvitski,JPM(Syvitski,James P.M)[18]; Vidas,D(Vidas,Davor)[19]; Wagreich,M(Wagreich,Michael)[20]; Wing,SL(Wing,Scott L)[21]; Wolfe,AP(Wolfe,Alexander P)[22]; An,ZS(An,Zhisheng)[23]; Oreskes,N(Oreskes, Naomi)[24]
Source PublicationQuaternary International

We evaluate the boundary of the Anthropocene geological time interval as an epoch, since it is useful to have a consistent temporal definition for this increasingly used unit, whether the presently informal term is eventually formalized or not. Of the three main levels suggested – an ‘early Anthropocene’ level some thousands of years ago; the beginning of the Industrial Revolution at ∼1800 CE (Common Era); and the ‘Great Acceleration’ of the mid-twentieth century – current evidence suggests that the last of these has the most pronounced and globally synchronous signal. A boundary at this time need not have a Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP or ‘golden spike’) but can be defined by a Global Standard Stratigraphic Age (GSSA), i.e. a point in time of the human calendar. We propose an appropriate boundary level here to be the time of the world's first nuclear bomb explosion, on July 16th 1945 at Alamogordo, New Mexico; additional bombs were detonated at the average rate of one every 9.6 days until 1988 with attendant worldwide fallout easily identifiable in the chemostratigraphic record. Hence, Anthropocene deposits would be those that may include the globally distributed primary artificial radionuclide signal, while also being recognized using a wide range of other stratigraphic criteria. This suggestion for the Holocene–Anthropocene boundary may ultimately be superseded, as the Anthropocene is only in its early phases, but it should remain practical and effective for use by at least the current generation of scientists.

KeywordAnthropocene Stratigraphy Gssp Gssa
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Affiliation1.Department of Geology, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester LE1 7RH, UK;
2.British Geological Survey, Keyworth, Nottingham NG12 5GG, UK;
3.Dept. of Integrative Biology, Museum of Paleontology, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA;
4.Departamento de Estratigrafía y Paleontología, Facultad de Ciencia y Tecnología, Universidad del País Vasco UPV/EHU, Apartado 644, 48080 Bilbao, Spain;
5.Max-Planck-Institute for Chemistry, Department of Atmospheric Chemistry, PO Box 3060, D-55020 Mainz, Germany;
6.Department of Geography and Environmental Systems, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD 21250, USA;
7.School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK;
8.IHEID, Chemin Eug ene Rigot 2, 1211 Gen eve 11, Switzerland;
9.Division of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Box 90233, Durham, NC 27516, USA;
10.ETH Zurich, Laboratory of Ion Beam Physics, HPK H27, Otto-Stern-Weg 5, CH-8093 Zürich, Switzerland;
11.Department of Geological Sciences, Freie Universitat Berlin, Malteserstr. 74-100/D, 12249 Berlin, Germany €;
12.Georgetown University, Washington, DC, USA;
13.Department of Geology, University of Nairobi, Kenya;
14.Morphodynamique Continentale et Coti ^ ere, Universit e de Caen Basse Normandie, CNRS, 24 rue des Tilleuls, F-14000 Caen, France;
15.Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA;
16.The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia;
17.Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge University, Lensfield Road, Cambridge CB2 1ER, UK;
18.University of Colorado-Boulder Campus, Box 545, Boulder, CO 80309-0545, USA;
19.Marine Affairs and Law of the Sea Programme, The Fridtjof Nansen Institute, Norway;
20.Department of Geodynamics and Sedimentology, University of Vienna, A-1090 Vienna, Austria;
21.Dept. of Paleobiology, NHB121, PO Box 37012, Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA;
22.Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2E3, Canada;
23.The Institute of the Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 10 Fenghui South Road, Xi'an High-Tech Zone, Xi'an 710075, China;
24.Department of the History of Science, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
Recommended Citation
GB/T 7714
Zalasiewicz,J,Waters,CN,Williams,M,et al. When did the Anthropocene begin? A mid-twentieth centuryboundary level is stratigraphically optimal[J]. Quaternary International,2015,383(2015):196-203.
APA Zalasiewicz,J.,Waters,CN.,Williams,M.,Barnosky,AD.,Cearreta,A.,...&Oreskes,N.(2015).When did the Anthropocene begin? A mid-twentieth centuryboundary level is stratigraphically optimal.Quaternary International,383(2015),196-203.
MLA Zalasiewicz,J,et al."When did the Anthropocene begin? A mid-twentieth centuryboundary level is stratigraphically optimal".Quaternary International 383.2015(2015):196-203.
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