Million years

The abbreviation myr, "million years" is a unit of a quantity of 1000000 (i.e. 1×106) years.

Usage

Myr is in common use where the term is often written, such as in the Earth sciences and cosmology. Myr is seen with mya, "million years ago". Together they make a reference system, one to a quantity, the other to a particular place in a year numbering system that is time before the present.

Myr, is deprecated in geology, but in astronomy myr is standard. Where "myr" is seen in geology it is usually "Myr" (a unit of mega-years). In astronomy it is usually "MYR" (million years).

Debate

In geology a good debate concerning the use of myr remains open concerning "the use of Myr plus Mya" versus "using Mya only".[1] In either case the term Ma is used in geology literature conforming to ISO 31-1 and NIST 811 recommended practices. Traditional style geology literature is written

The Cretaceous started 145 Ma and ended 66 Ma, lasting for 80 Myr.

The "ago" is implied, so that any such year number "X [Mya]" between 66 and 145 is "Cretaceous", for good reason. But the counter argument is that having myr for a "time travel" duration and Mya for an age mixes unit systems, and tempts capitalization errors: "million" need not be capitalized, but "mega" must be; "ma" would technically imply a milliyear (a thousandth of a year, or 8 hours). On this side of the debate, one avoids myr and simply adds ago explicitly (or adds BP), as in

The Cretaceous started 145 Ma ago and ended 66 Ma ago, lasting for 79 Ma.

Unfortunately "79 Ma" is not "Cretaceous" anymore as it was in tradition holding myr or Myr, but only —a quantity of 79 million years.

See also

References


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