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Spheroidal Carbonaceous Fly Ash Particles Provide a Globally Synchronous Stratigraphic Marker for the Anthropocene

Rose, NL; (2015) Spheroidal Carbonaceous Fly Ash Particles Provide a Globally Synchronous Stratigraphic Marker for the Anthropocene. Environmental Science & Technology , 49 (7) 4155 - 4162. 10.1021/acs.est.5b00543. Green open access

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Abstract

Human impacts on Earth are now so great that they have led to the concept of a new geological epoch defined by this global human influence: the Anthropocene. While not universally accepted, the term is increasingly popular and widely used. However, even among proponents, there is considerable debate regarding when the epoch may have started, from coeval with the Holocene, through the Industrial Revolution, to the mid-20th century when unprecedented human activities resulted in exponential increases in population, resource consumption, and pollutant emission. Recently, this latter period, known as the Great Acceleration, appears to be becoming the more widely accepted start date. To define any start point, a global stratigraphic marker or Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP) is typically required. Here, spheroidal carbonaceous fly ash particles (SCPs), byproducts of industrial fossil-fuel combustion, are proposed as a primary marker for a GSSP at the time of the Great Acceleration. Data from over 75 lake sediment records show a global, synchronous, and dramatic increase in particle accumulation starting in c. 1950 driven by the increased demand for electricity and the introduction of fuel-oil combustion, in addition to coal, as a means to produce it. SCPs are morphologically distinct and solely anthropogenic in origin, providing an unambiguous marker. This is a clear signal of great stratigraphic utility representing a primary driving force for global anthropogenic change.

Type: Article
Title: Spheroidal Carbonaceous Fly Ash Particles Provide a Globally Synchronous Stratigraphic Marker for the Anthropocene
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.5b00543
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.5b00543
Additional information: Copyright © 2015 American Chemical Society. This is an open access article published under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the author and source are cited.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Geography
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1466749
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