This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Despite seeming like a relatively stable place, the Earth's surface has changed dramatically over the past 4. Mountains have been built and eroded, continents and oceans have moved great distances, and the Earth has fluctuated from being extremely cold and almost completely covered with ice to being very warm and ice-free. These changes typically occur so slowly that they are barely detectable over the span of a human life, yet even at this instant, the Earth's surface is moving and changing.
Geologic Age Dating Explained
Absolute age dating
We have already discussed determining the relative ages of events. We will now discuss absolute age determination, which assigns a quantitative estimate of the number of years ago an event occurred. For a series of horizontal, depositional layers that are not overturned, the relative age of each layer with respect to the other layers may be known by invoking the Law of Superposition: Thus, in a series, the layers are successively younger, going from bottom to top. What may not be known is how long ago in years or some other unit or units of time any of the layers formed their absolute ages. In some circumstances, the absolute age may be readily determined. Consider a flat-floored valley in which a river flows.
Digital Atlas of Ancient Life
As we learned in the previous lesson, index fossils and superposition are effective methods of determining the relative age of objects. In other words, you can use superposition to tell you that one rock layer is older than another. To accomplish this, scientists use a variety of evidence, from tree rings to the amounts of radioactive materials in a rock. In regions outside the tropics, trees grow more quickly during the warm summer months than during the cooler winter.
Geological time scale — 4. Geological maps. Absolute age dating deals with assigning actual dates in years before the present to geological events.