Session 3: North American Commission on Stratigraphic Nomenclature

Prepared by Faith Rogers, Geological Society of America, Boulder, Colorado

Law and Order in Stratigraphy; or The Good, the Bad, and the New in the North American Stratigraphic Code

R.M. Easton, Chairman, North American Commission on Stratigraphic Nomenclature, c/o Ontario Geological Survey

Increased misunderstanding and disuse of the North American Stratigraphic Code brought Michael Easton, Ontario Geological Survey, to the AESE meeting to present a session that he subtitled "The Good, the Bad, and the New in the North American Stratigraphic Code." Easton, who is chair of the North American Commission on Stratigraphic Nomenclature (NACSN), said that application of the code is based on a partnership between the NACSN and the science editors and copy editors of geoscience journals.

Easton noted that the NACSN has representatives from 24 geoscience associations, including AAPG, AASG, GSA, USGS, GAC, and GSC. It has no funding--volunteers do all the work. The present code "of recommended procedures for classifying and naming stratigraphic and related units," as its Foreword states, was first published in 1983 in the AAPG Bulletin. The commission is now revising the 1983 version, by correcting typographical errors, refining unclear language, and updating parts--for example, the statement about Precambrian divisions in Article 71. The code is amended by: proposal to the NACSN by any geoscientist, acceptance of the proposal by a majority vote of the commission, allowance of 1 year for comments, and a vote of two-thirds of the commission at its annual meeting. Establishing a formal name for a geologic unit requires publication in a "recognized scientific medium" of a statement about the proposed unit; this requirement, explained in Article 4 of the code, must be modified, Easton said, to accommodate changes in technology (e.g., on-demand publication) since 1983. An amended version of the code, incorporating all changes, will become available electronically in 1997.

An ongoing debate concerns formalizing sequence stratigraphic terminology, possibly by inclusion in the code, Easton said. The community is split on whether formalization is necessary; editors can push the process of formalization if they see a need for standards in this area. Easton requested input on this question and on any other concerns about the 1983 version of the code.