Abstract

The Geological Society of America has sponsored versions of the geologic time scale since 1983. Over the past 30 years, the Geological Society of America Geologic Time Scale has undergone substantial modifications, commensurate with major advances in our understanding of chronostratigraphy, geochronology, astrochronology, chemostratigraphy, and the geomagnetic polarity time scale. Today, many parts of the time scale can be calibrated with precisions approaching less than 0.05%. Some notable time intervals for which collaborative, multifaceted efforts have led to dramatic improvements in our understanding of the character and temporal resolution of key evolutionary events include the Triassic-Jurassic, Permian-Triassic, and Neoproterozoic-Phanerozoic boundaries (or transitions). In developing the current Geological Society of America Time Scale, we have strived to maintain a consistency with efforts by the International Commission on Stratigraphy to develop an international geologic time scale.

Although current geologic time scales are vastly improved over the first geologic time scale, published by Arthur Holmes in 1913, we note that Holmes, using eight numerical ages to calibrate the Phanerozoic time scale, estimated the beginning of the Cambrian Period to within a few percent of the currently accepted value. Over the past 100 years, the confluence of process-based geological thought with observed and approximated geologic rates has led to coherent and quantitatively robust estimates of geologic time scales, reducing many uncertainties to the 0.1% level.

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