Geological Time Scale

Table of Content

Few treatments in geology can happen without mention to geologic clip. Geological clip is frequently dicussed in two signifiers:

Relative clip ( “ chronostratic ” ) — subdivisions of the Earth ‘s geology in a specific order based upon comparative age relationships ( most normally, vertical/stratigraphic place ) . These subdivisions are given names, most of which can be recognized globally, normally on the footing of dodos.

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Absolute clip ( “ chronometric ” ) — numerical ages in “ 1000000s of old ages ” or some other measuring. These are most normally obtained via radiometric dating methods performed on appropriate stone types.

Think of comparative clip as physical subdivisions of the stone found in the Earth ‘s stratigraphy, and absolute clip as the measurings taken upon those to find the existent clip which has expired. Absolute clip measurings can be used to graduate the comparative clip graduated table, bring forthing an integrated geologic or “ geochronologic ” clip graduated table.

It is of import to recognize that with new information about subdivision or correlativity of comparative clip, or new measurings of absolute clip, the day of the months applied to the clip graduated table can and make alteration. Revisions to the comparative clip graduated table have occurred since the late 1700s. The numerically calibrated geologic clip graduated table has been continuously refined since about the 1930s ( e.g. , Holmes, 1937 ) , although the sum of alteration with each alteration has become smaller over the decennaries ( see fig. 1.5 and 1.6 of Harland et Al. ) and a few numerical estimations were available antecedently ( but frequently for the continuance of the full graduated table instead than its single subdivisions ) .

In add-on, like any good scientific measuring, every dated boundary has an uncertainness associated with it, expressed as “ +- X 1000000s of old ages ” . These can non be included in the diagram for practical grounds, but can be found in Harland et al. , 1990, along with a elaborate description of the history of earlier-proposed clip graduated tables and the nomenclature, methodological analysis and informations involved in building this geological clip graduated table.

Because of continual polish, none of the values depicted in this diagram should be considered unequivocal, eventhough some have non changed significantly in a long clip and are really good constrained ( e.g. , the Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary has been at 65+-1 Ma for decennaries, and has been tested countless times, with about all day of the months someplace between 64 and 66 million old ages ) . The overall continuance and comparative length of these Lasrge geologic intervals is improbable to alter much, but the precise Numberss may “ jiggle ” a spot as a consequence of new informations.

This gelogical clip graduated table is based upon Harland et al. , 1990, but with the Precambrian/Cambrian boundary modified harmonizing to the most recently-published radiometric day of the months on that interval, revising the boundary from 570+-15 million old ages to 543+-1 million old ages ago ( Grotzinger et al. , 1995 ) . Other alterations have been proposed since 1990 ( e.g. , alteration of the Cretaceous by Obradovich, 1993 ) , but are non incorporated because they are comparatively little.

The clip graduated table is depicted in its traditional signifier with oldest at the underside and youngest at the top — the present twenty-four hours is at the zero grade. Geological clip is finely subdivided through most of the Phanerozoic ( see Harland et al. , 1990 for inside informations ) , but most of the finer subdivisions ( e.g. , era ) are normally referred to by non-specialists merely in the Tertiary. Because of the huge difference in graduated table, the younger intervals have been in turn expanded to the right to demo some of these finer subdivisions.


  1. Blatt, H. ; Berry, W.B.N. ; and Brande, S. , 1991. Principles of Stratigraphic Analysis. Blackwell Scientific Publications: Boston, p.1-512. ISBN 0-86542-069-6 [ Chapter 4 provides an debut to geologic clip. This is a good starting point to acquire the basic rules. ]
  2. Grotzinger, J.P. ; Bowring, S.A. ; Saylor, B.Z. ; and Kaufman, A.J. , 1995 ( Oct.27 ) . Biostratigraphic and geochronologic restraints on early carnal development. Science, v.270, p.598-604. [ The most recent alteration of the age of the Precambrian/Cambrian boundary. ]
  3. Harland, W.B. ; Armstrong, R.L. ; Cox, A.V. ; Craig, L.E. ; Smith, A.G. ; and Smith, D.G. , 1990. A geologic clip graduated table, 1989 edition. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, p.1-263. ISBN 0-521-38765-5 [ One of the more recent digests of the full geologic clip graduated table. ]
  4. Holmes, A. , 1937. The Age of the Earth ( new edition, revised ) . Nelson: London, p.1-263. [ One of the earlier efforts at an integrated geochronologic clip graduated table. ]
  5. Obradovich, J.D. , 1993. A Cretaceous clip graduated table. Inch: Caldwell, W.G.E. and Kauffman, E.G. ( explosive detection systems. ) , Evolution of the Western Interior Basin. Geological Association of Canada, Special Paper 39, p.379-396. [ Proposes alterations to the Cretaceous clip graduated table at the declaration of phases ( finer divisions than shown on diagram above ) and sub-stages. ]

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