Run Away!!! The Anthropocene is Coming!!!

I just love it when the authors of these sorts of articles start out with a series of mistakes…

The Anthropocene: Can Humans Survive A Human Age?

by Adam Frank

About 12,000 years ago (give or take a thousand) the glaciers covering much of the northern hemisphere disappeared and an ice age gripping the Earth ended. The planet became warmer, wetter and entered the geological era scientists call the Holocene. Marked by a stable climate, the Holocene has been good to humans. The entire history of our civilization (agriculture, city building, writing etc.) is bound within the Holocene and its bounty of productive land and oceans.

Now, it appears, the Holocene is over…

[…]

NPR

The author, an astrophysicist, must have never taken a course in Quaternary geology.

Mistake #1: “About 12,000 years ago (give or take a thousand) the glaciers covering much of the northern hemisphere disappeared and an ice age gripping the Earth ended.”

The glaciers retreated; but we are still very much in the grip of an ice age that began about 35 million years ago (the x-axes of first four graphs are denominated in millions of years ago (MYA) – Today is to the left)…

The boundary between the Eocene and Oligocene marks the beginning of the Cenozoic ice age. It’s the fourth major ice age of the Phanerozoic Eon…

The Holocene is an interglacial period within an ice age.  The only thing that distinguishes the Holocene from previous Pleistocene interglacial episodes is the fact that modern man migrated out of Africa and hunted the megafauna of Europe and North America into extinction…

Yes… I know that there’s not much evidence that our ancestors were capable of causing so much extinction prior to the invention of capitalism – But those megafauna had coped with all of the previous glacial-interglacial cycles just fine, so long as our ancestors stayed in Africa.

At this point in time there is no reason to assume that the Holocene marked the end of the Cenozoic ice age… There’s not even any reason to think that it marked the end of very cold Quaternary Period…

Mistake #2: “Marked by a stable climate, the Holocene has been good to humans.”

The Holocene has been a heck of a lot more stable than the preceding Pleistocene glacial episode (the x-axes of next three graphs are denominated in calendar years – Today is to the right)…

But it has been far from stable…

And it hasn’t always been nice to humans…

The Holocene of the Dark Ages Cold Period and Little Ice Age were quite often very unkind to humans.

Will there one day be a clear geological distinction between the “Anthropocene” and the Holocene and the rest of the Quaternary? I seriously doubt it – But no one will know for hundreds of thousands of years.

Professor Frank started out with a paragraph-full of mistakes; which then formed the basis of his sheer speculation about the Anthropocene’s future relevance in the geologic record.

H/T to Bill Illis for much of the paleoclimate data.

Addendum

The version of this post published on Watts Up With That has drawn some criticism about my assertion “that modern man migrated out of Africa and hunted the megafauna of Europe and North America into extinction.”  Despite the fact that the comment was obviously at least partially sarcastic, this has been the focus of Gorebot attacks on my post.  However, it is a simple fact that mastodons, stegodons and mammoths had “weathered” all of the prior Pleistocene glacial cycles just fine.  The transition from the Pleistocene to the Holocene saw the migration of humans out of Africa and across the world and the demise of most of the mega fauna that were in the path of that migration…

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One Response to “Run Away!!! The Anthropocene is Coming!!!”

  1. Biobob Says:

    Well, the criticism does have a basis.

    We do NOT know that “modern man” migrated out of Africa since this is simply an assertion without any confirming evidence. We only know that the earliest hominid fossils have been found in Africa and that a majority of surviving primate species are found in Africa.

    There is ample evidence that possible human precursor species (Homo erectus) were present in Africa, Europe, and Asia and therefore modern man could have evolved in any of those continents.

    We do not know why the megafauna disappeared either and any assertion that humans were responsible is simple that – an assertion without evidence. Disease, climate change, human predation, alien intervention (lol), asteroid/comet impacts are all just as valid since there is no actual evidence one way or another.

    What is sauce for the goose ….

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