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Book Chapter

Ice Sheets and the Anthropocene

By
Eric W. Wolff
Eric W. Wolff
British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET, UKDepartment of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EQ, UK (e-mail: ew428@cam.ac.uk)
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Published:
January 01, 2014

Abstract

Ice could play a role in identifying and defining the Anthropocene. The recurrence of northern hemisphere glaciation and the stability of the Greenland Ice Sheet are both potentially vulnerable to human impact on the environment. However, only a very long hiatus in either would be unusual in the context of the Quaternary Period, requiring the definition of a geological boundary. Human influence can clearly be discerned in several ice-core measurements. These include a sharp boundary in radioactivity due to atmospheric nuclear testing; increases, unprecedented at least in the Holocene, in Greenland concentrations of sulphate, nitrate and metals such as lead; the appearance in ice-core air bubbles of previously undetectable compounds such as SF6; and the rise, unprecedented in the last 800 ka, in concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane. Some combination of these changes could be used by future generations to clearly identify the onset of a new epoch defined at a particular calendar date. However, it is not yet clear what the character of the fully developed Anthropocene will be, and it might be wise to let future generations decide, with hindsight, when the Anthropocene started, acknowledging only that we are in the transition towards it.

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Contents

Geological Society, London, Special Publications

A Stratigraphical Basis for the Anthropocene

C. N. Waters
C. N. Waters
British Geological Survey, UK
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J. A. Zalasiewicz
J. A. Zalasiewicz
University of Leicester, UK
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M. Williams
M. Williams
University of Leicester, UK
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M. Ellis
M. Ellis
British Geological Survey, UK
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A. M. Snelling
A. M. Snelling
British Geological Survey, UK
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Geological Society of London
Volume
395
ISBN electronic:
9781862396715
Publication date:
January 01, 2014

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