We are in a new geological epoch that is marked by the impact of human activity on Earth. The evidence is now overwhelming that the time we are living in, known as the Anthropocene, should be officially recognized as an epoch that is distinct from the Holocene, according to new research in the journal Science.
The Holocene started 11,700 years ago at the end of the last ice age. Lead author Colin Waters of the British Geological Survey told Discovery News that the Holocene "was very much a natural phenomenon, representing part of the cyclical variation in the orientation of the Earth's orbit around the sun."
He says our species, which has been around for about 200,000 years, initiated many developments then that characterize our modern civilization, such as living in settlements, deforestation, agriculture and domestication of livestock.
Starting at around 1950, however, our influence became truly global, Waters said, "modifying not just the geosphere, but the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and cryosphere often in a linked effect, and at the same time the changes are incredibly rapid -- annual to decadal."
The researchers also believe that the present Anthropocene, aka the "Human Epoch," will leave behind its own unique geological signature far into the future. This assumes that the planet will not be blown to smithereens by bombs, a meteor or some other disaster. Part of that signature would consist of our skeletal remains.
RELATED: Human Impact on Ecology Mapped