Article image

Geologists announce we are living in a new age of Earth’s history

The Holocene Epoch is the name given to the last 11,700 years of Earth’s history and marks the current geological age we are living in. However, it turns out the Holocene can be split into three distinct categories and we are actually living in an entirely new age called the Meghalayan.

Scientists at the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) are responsible for categorizing Earth’s geological calendar and splitting up its history into periods marked by major global changes.

For example, the Cambrian explosion, a period when life flourished on Earth occurred during the Cambrian Period and the end of the Paleozoic Era, coincided with the largest mass extinction event in history.

In order to label a period of Earth’s history, there are certain ICS qualifications including evidence that the new classification or age  was driven by a huge event that had global ramifications.

Now, geologists have gotten approval for the Meghalayan to describe the last 4,200 years as well as two other distinct ages, the Greenlandian, the earliest phase of the Holocene and the Northgrippian.

At the end of the Northgrippian, a two-century-long drought wiped out many civilizations and this marks the start of the Meghalayan according to the ICS.  

Evidence pointing to the Meghalyan was found in stalagmites in a cave in India, according to Newsweek

“In these stalagmites there is a very highly detailed record of climate change, which is shown by the geochemistry of the precipitated material—the carbonate formed by the dripping of water in the cave,” Philip Gibbard, the ICS Secretary-General told Newsweek. “This indicates a major change in the global climate, especially in the mid and low latitudes, at around about 4,200 years ago.”

The new periods in the Holocene won out over the recently proposed “Anthropocene Epoch,” a suggested age defined by humankind’s impact on the globe and now the Meghalayan period is the subject of much debate.

Still, there are concerns that there just isn’t enough evidence to officially introduce the new age in Earth’s history.

“After the original paper and going through various committees, they’ve suddenly announced [the Meghalayan] and stuck it on the diagram” Mark Maslin, an expert in the Anthropocene Epoch debate told the BBC. “It’s official, we’re in a new age; who knew? We have lots of new definitions that perhaps now contradict the Anthropocene Working Group and go against what most scientists perceive to be the most important change on Earth in the last 10,000 years.”

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day