Spheroidal carbonaceous particles are a defining stratigraphic marker for the Anthropocene

Graeme T. Swindles*, Elizabeth Watson, T. Edward Turner, Jennifer M. Galloway, Thomas Hadlari, Jane Wheeler, K. L. Bacon

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    31 Citations (Scopus)
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    There has been recent debate over stratigraphic markers used to demarcate the Anthropocene from the Holocene Epoch. However, many of the proposed markers are found only in limited areas of the world or do not reflect human impacts on the environment. Here we show that spheroidal carbonaceous particles (SCPs), a distinct form of black carbon produced from burning fossil fuels in energy production and heavy industry, provide unambiguous stratigraphic markers of the human activities that have rapidly changed planet Earth over the last century. SCPs are found in terrestrial and marine sediments or ice cores in every continent, including remote areas such as the high Arctic and Antarctica. The rapid increase in SCPs mostly occurs in the mid-twentieth century and is contemporaneous with the Great Acceleration. It therefore reflects the intensification of fossil fuel usage and can be traced across the globe. We integrate global records of SCPs and propose that the global rapid increase in SCPs in sedimentary records can be used to inform a Global Standard Stratigraphic Age for the Anthropocene. A high-resolution SCP sequence from a lake or peatland may provide the much-needed Golden Spike(Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point).

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number10264
    JournalScientific Reports
    Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2015

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General


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