In DepthEarth Science

New geological age comes under fire

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Science  10 Aug 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6402, pp. 537-538
DOI: 10.1126/science.361.6402.537

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In July, the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS), the bureaucracy that governs geological time, declared we are living in a new geological age called the Meghalayan, based on signs in the rock record of a global drought that began about 4200 years ago. It is one of three newly named subdivisions of the Holocene, the geological epoch that began 11,700 years ago with the retreat of ice age glaciers. Although the name will now filter its way into textbooks, many scientists say that the "4.2-kiloyear" drought event was neither global nor fixed to that moment in time. Replications of the exemplar rock sample from a cave in northeastern India have been inexact, and an unpublished broad-scale analysis failed to find an event of climatic significance around the same time period. All debate over the division will have to wait a decade, however, as ICS limits debates to prevent continual squabbles.