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Anthropocene epoch: What it means, significance

GS Paper 1

 Syllabus: Geomorphology


Source: IE

 Context: According to the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG), sediments at Crawford Lake in Canada’s Ontario have provided evidence of the beginning of the Anthropocene epoch.



  • It is an interdisciplinary research group dedicated to the study of the Anthropocene as a geological time unit.
  • It was established in 2009 as part of the Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy (SQS), a constituent body of the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS).


Earth’s geological timeline:

  • The geologic time scale is the calendar for events in Earth’s history.
  • It subdivides all time into units of abstract time called (in descending order of duration) – eons (about a billion years), eras, periods, epochs, and ages.
  • Each of these categories is further divided into sub-categories. For instance, Earth’s history is characterised by four eons, including –
    • Hadeon (oldest),
    • Archean,
    • Proterozoic, and
    • Phanerozoic (youngest).
  • The enumeration of these geologic time units is based on stratigraphy, which is the correlation and classification of rock strata – which contains different kinds of fossils characterising different intervals of time.
  • Officially, we’re in the Phanerozoic eon, Cenozoic era, Quaternary period, Holocene epoch and the Meghalayan age.


The Holocene epoch:

  • The Holocene is the current geological epoch, which began approximately 11,700 years ago.
  • It follows the Last Glacial Period and the Holocene along with the preceding Pleistocene forms the Quaternary period.
  • The Holocene, which has been identified with the current warm period, corresponds with the rapid proliferation, growth and impacts of the human species worldwide.


What is the Anthropocene epoch?

The term was first coined byNobel Prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen and biology professor Eugene Stoermer in 2000
DenotesThe present geological time interval, in which the Earth’s ecosystem has gone through radical changes due to human impact, especially since the onset of the Industrial Revolution.
Phenomena associated with this epochSuch as global warming, sea-level rise, ocean acidification, mass-scale soil erosion, the advent of deadly heat waves, deterioration of the biosphere and other detrimental changes in the environment.
ImpactMany of these changes will persist for millennia or longer and are altering the trajectory of the Earth System, some with permanent effects.
What have the geologists found?In a major development that could change the Earth’s official geological timeline, distinct and multiple signals show the start of the Anthropocene epoch around 1950, when human activity started to have a significant impact on the Earth.
EvidenceThe presence of plutonium (due to the detonation of nuclear weapons) gives us a stark indicator of when humanity became such a dominant force that it could leave a unique global ‘fingerprint’ on planet Earth. But these findings don’t mean that they have proved the advent of the Anthropocene epoch.

Insta Links:

Geological time scale


Mains Links:

The scale of geologic time is vast, currently estimated at nearly 4.6 billion years. During that time, life evolved into the familiar forms we see today. Elaborate upon the importance of studying geologic time scale (GTS).