70 Unknown Facts About The Ice Age That Are Fascinating

Sridevi Tolety
Feb 14, 2023 By Sridevi Tolety
Originally Published on Mar 08, 2022
Edited by Pete Anderson
Fact-checked by Spandana Kantam
changed the Earth in significant ways
Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.7 Min

The history of our Earth is vast, and it started with the development of the planet, going on till today!

Earth has gone through many ecological and biological changes, and we are still trying to learn more about the past of the Earth. The ice age is one such big event that changed the Earth in significant ways.

The last time the glacial period occurred was in the Quaternary period. It was the Pleistocene, which ended 15,000 years ago and began around 110,000 years ago!

This glaciation covered many parts of the Earth, including Wurm in the Alps, Weichsel in Central Europe, Taibai in Shaanxi, Luoji Shan in Sichuan, Dali in East China, Zagunao in Sichuan, Chomolungma in the Himalayas, Llanquihue in Chile, Devensian in Great Britain, Wisconsin in North America and many more!

Different Ice Ages

The ice age is also called the glacial age sometimes. During this time, vast areas of land were covered by thick sheets of ice. The ice ages have lasted for several decades and even changed the structure of continents. Numerous ice ages have occurred throughout the beginning of the Earth's history.

The most recently known ice age happened during the Pleistocene Epoch, which was 11,700 years ago.

During the history of 4.6 billion years since the Earth's formation, at least five major ice ages have been documented.

Four of these documented ice ages occurred during the Pleistocene Epoch, and many might have occurred before humans came to exist.

The Huronian period is said to be around 2.4-2.1 billion years ago, which is the first recorded ice age.

Cryogenian is a period that is said to have occurred around 850-635 million years ago.

Andean Saharan ice age is an ice age that happened 460-420 million years ago.

Karoo ice age occurred around 360-260 million years ago.

The Quaternary ice age period started around 2.6 million years ago is going on till today.

There have been dozens of glacial periods that have occurred in history.

The peak period of the ice age lasted for 50,000 years and happened 650,000 years ago.

The most recent glacial event is simply known as the Ice Age, which happened around 18,000 years before the interglacial period of the Holocene period that took place 11,700 years ago.

The evolution of humans started in the Pleistocene Epoch.

 By the end of this Epoch, humans were mapped throughout the planet.

The Huronian ice age is known to be one of the longest-running ice ages in Earth's history.

One of the major ice ages is also the Precambrian ice age.

This ice age dates back millions of years.

It is said that a lack of volcanic activity might have started this ice age.

The Cryogenian period is also related to the ice age.

It lasted for around 200 years.

We can understand the orbital structure of the Earth. It has become possible for us to predict past and future climatic conditions.

The Duration Of The Last Ice Age

The Quaternary is one of the most recent periods of the geologic time lime of the Earth. It is one of the three periods included in the Cenozoic Era, which was written in the International Commission on Stratigraphy. Holocene is the most recent Epoch in the Quaternary ice age period, which lasted for 11,700 years.

The last ice age began around 100,000 years ago in the history of the Earth.

This lasted for around 25,000 years.

The time we are experiencing right now is called the warm glacial period.

The continents, which were enlarged due to low ice levels, changed the climate.

The ice age was also known to be arid and windy.

This latest ice age lasted for around 6,000 years.

This can be estimated to be around 200 human generations.

Many livings beings died out during the end of the ice age unable to bear the climate changes.

Animals like mammoths, mastodons, and giant bears died.

Humans adapted to the great ice age by making tools that helped them in their survival.

Tools like bone needles, clothes made from warm clothing material or animal skin, and building bridges to move around different places helped humans cope.

One of the theories on the ice age says that a comet that hit the Earth over northern Canada wiped out the ice age and stone-age culture.

Many parts of the Earth, including Asia and North America, were covered in snow.

One-third of the Earth was covered in snow during the great ice age.

The global temperature during the ice age went very low, compared to what we see today.

The Reasons For The Last Ice Age

Earth has seen huge changes since the beginning. The Hadean Eon is one such time before fossils were even made! This happened during the birth of the planet, and it eventually ended four billion years ago. The beginning of life started in Proterozoic as well as Archean eons.

There are many reasons which can be attributed to the ice ages, like the orbit of the Earth; the distance of the Earth from the Sun, the change in the shape of orbits (Milankovitch cycles), and so on.

Global warming is also said to be a cause of moving tectonic plate activity.

Ocean currents also have a major impact on the climate of the Earth.

Cooling of the Earth (cold period) caused by the release of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide can also lead to cooling of the Earth, which in turn leads to the ice age.

During the last ice age, the Earth went through some sudden reorganizations and oscillations.

This was a sudden change to the relatively stable climate of the Earth in the last 10,000 years.

This sudden change in the stable environment lasted between 18,000 and 80,000 years ago.

When the scientists were compiling data from the ice glaciers of Greenland, they compared the occurrence of isotope oxygen-16 against the occurrence of isotope oxygen-18.

This was the time when the abrupt temperature changes and the occurrence of the ice age were discovered.

Since each layer of the Earth gives us the history of the Earth's climate, the recorded oxygen isotopes told us about the sudden climate shift that had occurred during the ice age.

It was found that there are around 25 cycles of such warm and cold oscillations, and these cycles are now referred to as the D-O cycles or Dansgaard-Oeschger cycles.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the sudden cooling of the Earth was seen in the form of a sawtooth in the records.

The shifts from the warm and cold climates happened over some decades.

Another cause of the ice age can be ocean currents, which can cause sheets of ice to build upon the surface of the Earth.

The lack of volcanoes can also cause an ice age as they introduce a huge amount of carbon dioxide into the air.

Hence, volcanic activity can end the ice ages!

There have been many theories on the occurrence of ice ages, like the 'Ice Age Origin Theory.'

This ice age theory began when the Europeans realized that the Alpine glaciers had reduced in size.

The rocks and fossils which we have found confirm the existence of the ice age.

The chemicals in the rocks also give us information on the ice age.

The global temperatures during the ice ages dropped drastically.

There have been theories, like ocean control theory, which explain the facts about ice ages.

The Impact Of The Last Ice Age

There was a rich animal life during various phases of the Earth. After the ice age, many animals went extinct, like the saber-toothed cats and saber-toothed tigers. Other animals that went extinct at various times were the dodo and the great auk.

The last ice age occurred mainly due to the change in the orbit of the Earth and the distance between the Sun and the Earth.

It is said that the coolest the Earth has ever been was around 21,000 years ago.

The cooling trend occurred due to the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the temperature of the sea surface.

Reductions in the carbon dioxide found in the atmosphere and sea surface temperatures reinforced the cooling trend.

One of the most seen impacts of the last ice ages were the large sheets of ice that could be seen at the poles and 2.5 mi (4 km) thick sheets of ice covering northern Europe, North America, and northern Russia.

These ice blankets took up the space of 250 million people! They would completely hide cities like Manchester, Hamburg, Helsinki, and Detroit!

The sea levels at that time dropped down to a whopping 410 ft (125 m) lower than it is today!

This resulted in a huge amount of land being exposed, and the continents became larger.

Australian continent became around 20% larger than it is today and was called Sahul.

The infamous Darwin harbor and northern Australia joined to form a 186.4 mi (300 km) coast.

The Gulf of Carpentaria had become a salty inland lake that was large and not used by humans.

This enlargement of continents became the cause of even more climatic changes, and it's said that the ice ages were windy and arid.

The rain from the winter westerlies appeared further south in the Southern Ocean.

There was a significant drop in global temperatures during the ice ages.

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Written by Sridevi Tolety

Bachelor of Science specializing in Botany, Master of Science specializing in Clinical Research and Regulatory Affairs

Sridevi Tolety picture

Sridevi ToletyBachelor of Science specializing in Botany, Master of Science specializing in Clinical Research and Regulatory Affairs

With a Master's degree in clinical research from Manipal University and a PG Diploma in journalism from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Sridevi has cultivated her passion for writing across various domains. She has authored a wide range of articles, blogs, travelogues, creative content, and short stories that have been published in leading magazines, newspapers, and websites. Sridevi is fluent in four languages and enjoys spending her spare time with loved ones. Her hobbies include reading, traveling, cooking, painting, and listening to music.

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Fact-checked by Spandana Kantam

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Political Science and Sociology

Spandana Kantam picture

Spandana KantamBachelor of Arts specializing in Political Science and Sociology

Spandana holds a Bachelor's degree in Political Science from Acharya Nagarjuna University. She has a passion for writing and enjoys reading crime and thriller novels while listening to RnB music in her free time.

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