The history of our planet was very turbulent. 252 million years ago, it was a particularly important event. On Earth erupted volcanic activity that could wipe out all complex life. Geologists call this event the “mother of all extinctions” because it marked the end of one big Chapter in the history of Earth — Permian period and the beginning of a new Chapter of the Triassic period. However, to give a name to this event was not so easy.
The fact that scientists want to know where in our world is the best place where you can see rocks that were formed at the catastrophic boundary between these periods. Also geologists looking for a special place that would mark the beginning of the anthropocene.
In 2001, after 20 years of controversy, finally been answered.
Rock near Meishan in Zhejiang province in China is your best choice. She was awarded the highest geological award. This and 65 other locations around the world celebrate important geological boundaries. So that everyone could easily look at the rock, the authorities have put the ladder.
Some geologists say that the planet has crossed another geological boundary, about 70 years ago and has entered a new Chapter in its history — the anthropocene. The question is, where on our planet will be visible all the time, which began our modern world. Where to place the Golden spike, signifying the blossoming of the anthropocene?
Colin waters from the British geological survey near Nottingham leads a team that is considering his options. He said that the definition of the Golden spike for the start of the anthropocene creates unique problems with which geologists have never seen before.
A Golden spikes are placed into the rocks in Meishan. But for the beginning of the anthropocene is not an option: the rocky cliffs formed thousands of years, and the anthropocene began just a few decades ago, in 1950 or so.
But even if there are no cliffs, a lot of options.
Dawn of the anthropocene, in all probability, will be marked with a chemical or biological signal. There is no official agreement about what can be this the signal: perhaps scientists will get a burst of radioactivity from atmospheric tests of nuclear bombs, increasing the concentration of the micro-plastic in the environment or something completely different.
To identify signal gold spike, scientists need to find out the geographical conditions in which this signal is recorded in the material that has accumulated since the beginning of the anthropocene.
In principle, this material can be even garbage. Therefore, one of the places that they look is the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten island in new York.
This landfill opened in 1948, and at the peak of the work she received 26,000 tons of garbage every day. For some reasons, it is the largest man-made collection of junk in its kind in the world. And it is, in principle, excellent for the mark of the anthropocene.
But landfills is a serious problem, says waters. Material that is stored on them, constantly milled by machines, so there is no explicit layer corresponding to a particular year. The border will be blurred and crumpled — not the best picture. And this is a problem most places that accumulate technogenic dregs, says waters.
It would be advisable to put antropoceno gold label in the place created solely by human activities, but to find a suitable place would be difficult. So scientists are looking for him everywhere.
It would be possible to study the sludge that accumulates in estuaries. For example, the sludge at the bottom of the mouth of the Clyde to contain chemical contamination from industrial processes. This dirt was not blurred, unlike the garbage at the dump, so should be able to determine the thin layer of dirt that has accumulated in a given year. This means that the boundary of the anthropocene will appear sharp line rather than a spot.
The silt and dirt annually accumulate at the bottom of lakes and come to the bottom of the ocean. The mud at the bottom of Crawford lake in Ontario, Canada, provides a detailed annual report on industrial pollution. Waters believes that it may be the appropriate place to mark.
And all these dirty record, especially the ones on the bottom of the ocean — not so easy to get. The only way to see 70-year-old layer of mud, which marks the beginning of the anthropocene, is to extract cores of sediment and study on the ground.
This is easier said than done. Soft mud may be broken when removing, so dirt from the border could blend in with the dirt above and below, brushing a chemical signal that marks the border. “High risk to make a mistake,” says waters.
For these reasons, it would be best to put the Golden spike in the place where material will accumulate in unbreakable and solid.
Deep under Paris, for example, has a network of drains, which for the last 300 years form a layer, formed of limestone, folded in layers. In these layers are closed traces of metals, including lead and copper. They document the growth of the urban environment of Paris. If these chemicals take to determine antropoceno borders, the Paris limestone is a great choice for Golden spike, said waters.
Another option is elected by waters is to put the Golden spike into the piece of coral out of the Caribbean sea. Corals add a new layer of material each year, and chemicals trapped in these layers register all kinds of human activity, from the testing of nuclear bombs to the people caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
All of these candidates, there is one drawback, says waters. The geological community who have never before placed a Golden spike in these places. “We may have to talk to people and determine which option would be most acceptable to them,” says waters.
The determination of the place in which you can drive the Golden wedge, is given geologists a hard time, says Mike Walker from the University of Wales. First for selected locations vote scientists who study geological boundaries. Then, when they determine suitable locations, the place assesses the scientific Commission that has been studying the geological epochs in a wide range.
The anthropocene, for example, must be the age, a member of the Quaternary period, so the Subcommission on Quaternary stratigraphy will have to vote for the acceptance of the option for a gold spike.
If they vote for, the proposal will go to the Inbox of the International Commission on stratigraphy, where there will be another vote on the nomination of the Golden spike. If it is successful, the case goes to the International Union of geological Sciences for final review and ratification. And only then the Golden wedge to be driven officially.
There is another important point. Golden spike can become honorary locals. This, of course, refers to the gold spike in Meishan in Zhejiang province in China. Which country or city will be awarded antropoceno gold mark?