Scientists discover new ‘Meghalayan age’ in Earth’s history

21 July, 2018, 16:14 | Author: Darnell Taylor

Newsweek's Katherine Hignett reports that the former began 11,700 years ago and ended roughly 8,300 years ago, when the Northgrippian began; the Northgrippian lasted until the start of the Meghalayan Age. A stalagmite on the floor in the depths of this cave has been found to contain a chemical signature - a shift in Oxygen isotope levels indicating mega drought conditions 4,200 years ago. Together, these three stages stretch across the Holocene Epoch, which is the "epoch" or "series" we've been living in for the past 11,700 years.

These latest modifications are now to be included in the International Chronostratigraphic Chart, the diagram that depicts the timeline of our planet's history, describing all of Earth's eons, eras, periods, epochs, and ages. The Meghalayan's lower level is determined in a single stalagmite from a cave in northeast India, and is thus named for the state where it is found.

"The last 4,200 years of Earth's history now named as Meghalayan Age - Geologists have now classified it as being a distinct age and are calling it as the Meghalayan Age. They were subsequently approved by the International Subcommission of Quaternary Stratigraphy and the International Commission on Stratigraphy before being forwarded to IUGS for ratification".

It should be said, however, there is disquiet in the scientific community at the way the change has been introduced.

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The Northgrippian Age was brought about by the melting of Canada glaciers during the Greenlandian warming period, which released massive volumes of freshwater into the North Atlantic, disrupting ocean currents and cooling the climate. The Meghalayan, the youngest stage, runs from 4,200 years ago to 1950.

"The Holocene is now defined by three stages: the Lower Holocene Greenlandian Stage, the Middle Holocene Northgrippian Stage, and the Upper Holocene Meghalayan Stage", the IUGS International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) said in a statement. The proposals were developed by a dedicated, worldwide team of Holocene scientists led by Mike Walker of the University of Wales.

The most recent phase, The Meghalayan Age, is based on the evidence of the climatic event found in sedimentary records. There were droughts as a result of the climatic changes which continued for over a 200-year period and hence resulted in migrations and changes in human settlements in Egypt, Greece, Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia, the Indus valley and the Yangtze river valley. According to certain geologists, it is too early to name the Holocene's ages, as it is not yet certain that the climatic shifts are global in nature.

Mark Maslin is professor of geography at University College London, UK, and a key figure in the Anthropocene discussion. "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".

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