'Ice age' is a term used in palaeoclimatology for the period of extensive ice sheets in the recent Pleistocene period. We now know that ice ages have happened a number of times in the past, the greatest and longest of which took place in the Proterozoic era, before multi-cellular eukaryotes evolved.
Stages[change | change source]
Within an ice age, there are stages. The longer cold stages are called glacials or glacial periods. The shorter warm periods are called interglacials. The last glacial ended about 11,000 years ago when the present interglacial started. The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets still exist. The last two million years have been the Pleistocene ice age. During glacials, large and thick ice sheets cover much of the North American and Eurasian continents.
Many glacial periods that have occurred during the last few million years are initially at 40,000-year frequency, but more recently ice ages have occurred at 100,000-year frequency.
Key point[change | change source]
This data comes from a time when human beings had no effect on the climate, or virtually none. Therefore, it is technically correct to say that humans have had no effect on global climate in the Earth's history. But they have had an ever-increasing effect in the last couple of centuries, and this has partly been responsible for the present temperature rise.
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