Geologic Time Scale

The Absolute Geologic Time Scale

By modern scientific calculations, the earth is many millions of years old.   The Absolute Geologic Time Scale has been developed by using a process called “Isotopic Dating”, in which the decay rates of certain radioactive materials are established and measured, then used as “clocks” to calculate the ages of various rocks.

The Geologic Time Scale is illustrated here to help you see the way geologists have broken down geologic time into sections, each with an interesting and fascinating name, and each containing a package of rocks deposited during a certain time period….all over the world.

The scale shows how old certain rocks are in millions of years.  For example, look at the Jurassic.  You will see the Jurassic rocks were deposited about 138-205 million years Geologic Time Scaleago. The Jurassic was the “age of the dinosaurs.”

A More Detailed Time Scale

Here is a much more detailed time scale, courtesy of the GSA (Geological Society of America).  Click on it for a

Detailed Geologic Time Scale (Courtesy GSA)

Detailed Geologic Time Scale (Courtesy GSA)

full-sized view (large file).

The PG is not as interested in the age of rocks in years as she is in the relative sequence of their deposition, and the time period to which they belong.   That is because the PG knows that certain conditions existed on earth during each of the geologic time periods.  Knowing that a certain rock was deposited in the   “Pennsylvanian”, for example, may help the PG to interpret rocks in a certain area.

Also, petroleum geologists are mainly interested in rocks from the Mesozoic and Paleozoic Eras.  This is because almost all of the oil and gas found so far is contained within these rocks.  These rocks are 60 to 600 million years old, approximately. But of course, these oil and gas-bearing rocks represent only a small fraction of the total age of the earth, which is measured in billions of years.