Last Glacial Period

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Chronology of climatic events of importance for the last glacial period (about the last 120,000 years) Approximate chronology of Heinrich events vs Dansgaard-Oeschger events and Antarctic Isotope Maxima.png
Chronology of climatic events of importance for the last glacial period (about the last 120,000 years)

The Last Glacial Period (LGP) occurred from the end of the Eemian to the end of the Younger Dryas, encompassing the period c. 115,000 – c.11,700 years ago. This most recent glacial period is part of a larger pattern of glacial and interglacial periods known as the Quaternary glaciation extending from c.2,588,000 years ago to present. [1] The definition of the Quaternary as beginning 2.58 Ma is based on the formation of the Arctic ice cap. The Antarctic ice sheet began to form earlier, at about 34 Ma, in the mid-Cenozoic (Eocene–Oligocene extinction event). The term Late Cenozoic Ice Age is used to include this early phase. [2]


During this last glacial period there were alternating episodes of glacier advance and retreat. Within the last glacial period the Last Glacial Maximum was approximately 22,000 years ago. While the general pattern of global cooling and glacier advance was similar, local differences in the development of glacier advance and retreat make it difficult to compare the details from continent to continent (see picture of ice core data below for differences). Approximately 12,800 years ago, the Younger Dryas, the most recent glacial epoch, began, a coda to the preceding 100,000 year glacial period. Its end about 11,550 years ago marked the beginning of the Holocene, the current geological epoch.

From the point of view of human archaeology, the last glacial period falls in the Paleolithic and early Mesolithic periods. When the glaciation event started, Homo sapiens were confined to lower latitudes and used tools comparable to those used by Neanderthals in western and central Eurasia and by Denisovans and Homo erectus in Asia. Near the end of the event, Homo sapiens migrated into Eurasia and Australia. Archaeological and genetic data suggest that the source populations of Paleolithic humans survived the last glacial period in sparsely wooded areas and dispersed through areas of high primary productivity while avoiding dense forest cover. [3]

Artist's impression of the last glacial period at glacial maximum IceAgeEarth.jpg
Artist's impression of the last glacial period at glacial maximum

Origin and definition

The last glacial period is sometimes colloquially referred to as the "last ice age", though this use is incorrect because an ice age is a longer period of cold temperature in which year-round ice sheets are present near one or both poles. Glacials are colder phases within an ice age in which glaciers advance; glacials are separated by interglacials. Thus, the end of the last glacial period, which was about 11,700 years ago, is not the end of the last ice age since extensive year-round ice persists in Antarctica and Greenland. Over the past few million years the glacial-interglacial cycles have been "paced" by periodic variations in the Earth's orbit via Milankovitch cycles.

The last glacial period is the best-known part of the current ice age, and has been intensively studied in North America, northern Eurasia, the Himalaya and other formerly glaciated regions around the world. The glaciations that occurred during this glacial period covered many areas, mainly in the Northern Hemisphere and to a lesser extent in the Southern Hemisphere. They have different names, historically developed and depending on their geographic distributions: Fraser (in the Pacific Cordillera of North America), Pinedale (in the Central Rocky Mountains), Wisconsinan or Wisconsin (in central North America), Devensian (in the British Isles), [5] Midlandian (in Ireland), Würm (in the Alps), Mérida (in Venezuela), Weichselian or Vistulian (in Northern Europe and northern Central Europe), Valdai in Russia and Zyryanka in Siberia, Llanquihue in Chile, and Otira in New Zealand. The geochronological Late Pleistocene includes the late glacial (Weichselian) and the immediately preceding penultimate interglacial (Eemian) period.


Vegetation types at time of Last Glacial Maximum Last Glacial Maximum Vegetation Map.svg
Vegetation types at time of Last Glacial Maximum
Last glacial period, as seen in ice core data from Antarctica and Greenland Ice-core-isotope.png
Last glacial period, as seen in ice core data from Antarctica and Greenland

Northern Hemisphere

Canada was nearly completely covered by ice, as well as the northern part of the United States, both blanketed by the huge Laurentide Ice Sheet. Alaska remained mostly ice free due to arid climate conditions. Local glaciations existed in the Rocky Mountains and the Cordilleran Ice Sheet and as ice fields and ice caps in the Sierra Nevada in northern California. [6] In Britain, mainland Europe, and northwestern Asia, the Scandinavian ice sheet once again reached the northern parts of the British Isles, Germany, Poland, and Russia, extending as far east as the Taymyr Peninsula in western Siberia. [7] The maximum extent of western Siberian glaciation was reached by approximately 18,000 to 17,000 BP and thus later than in Europe (22,000–18,000 BP) [8] Northeastern Siberia was not covered by a continental-scale ice sheet. [9] Instead, large, but restricted, icefield complexes covered mountain ranges within northeast Siberia, including the Kamchatka-Koryak Mountains. [10] [11]

The Arctic Ocean between the huge ice sheets of America and Eurasia was not frozen throughout, but like today probably was only covered by relatively shallow ice, subject to seasonal changes and riddled with icebergs calving from the surrounding ice sheets. According to the sediment composition retrieved from deep-sea cores there must even have been times of seasonally open waters. [12]

Outside the main ice sheets, widespread glaciation occurred on the highest mountains of the AlpsHimalaya mountain chain. In contrast to the earlier glacial stages, the Würm glaciation was composed of smaller ice caps and mostly confined to valley glaciers, sending glacial lobes into the Alpine foreland. The Pyrenees, the highest massifs of the Carpathian Mountains and the Balkanic peninsula mountains and to the east the Caucasus and the mountains of Turkey and Iran were capped by local ice fields or small ice sheets. [13]

In the Himalaya and the Tibetan Plateau, glaciers advanced considerably, particularly between 47,000–27,000 BP, [14] but these datings are controversial. [15] [16] The formation of a contiguous ice sheet on the Tibetan Plateau [17] [18] is controversial. [19]

Other areas of the Northern Hemisphere did not bear extensive ice sheets, but local glaciers in high areas. Parts of Taiwan, for example, were repeatedly glaciated between 44,250 and 10,680 BP [20] as well as the Japanese Alps. In both areas maximum glacier advance occurred between 60,000 and 30,000 BP. [21] To a still lesser extent glaciers existed in Africa, for example in the High Atlas, the mountains of Morocco, the Mount Atakor massif in southern Algeria, and several mountains in Ethiopia. In the Southern Hemisphere, an ice cap of several hundred square kilometers was present on the east African mountains in the Kilimanjaro massif, Mount Kenya and the Rwenzori Mountains, still bearing remnants of glaciers today. [22]

Southern Hemisphere

Glaciation of the Southern Hemisphere was less extensive because of current configuration of continents. Ice sheets existed in the Andes (Patagonian Ice Sheet), where six glacier advances between 33,500 and 13,900 BP in the Chilean Andes have been reported. [23] Antarctica was entirely glaciated, much like today, but the ice sheet left no uncovered area. In mainland Australia only a very small area in the vicinity of Mount Kosciuszko was glaciated, whereas in Tasmania glaciation was more widespread. [24] An ice sheet formed in New Zealand, covering all of the Southern Alps, where at least three glacial advances can be distinguished. [25] Local ice caps existed in Western New Guinea, Indonesia, where in three ice areas remnants of the Pleistocene glaciers are still preserved today. [26]

Small glaciers developed in a few favorable places in Southern Africa during the last glacial period. [27] [upper-alpha 1] [upper-alpha 2] These small glaciers would have developed in the Lesotho Highlands and parts of the Drakensberg. [29] [30] The development of glaciers was likely aided by localized cooling indebted to shading by adjacent cliffs. [30] Various moraines and former glacial niches have been identified in the eastern Lesotho Highlands, above 3,000 m.a.s.l. and on south-facing slopes, a few kilometres west of the Great Escarpment. [29] Studies suggest the mountains of Southern Africa were mostly subject to mild periglaciation during the last glacial cycle and the annual average temperatures were about 6 °C colder than at present. The estimated 6 °C temperature drop for Southern Africa is in line with temperature drops estimated for Tasmania and southern Patagonia during the same time. [27] [28] The environment of the Lesotho Highlands during the Last Glacial Maximum was one of a relatively arid periglaciation without permafrost but with deep seasonal freezing on south-facing slopes. Periglaciation in the Eastern Drakensberg and Lesotho Highlands produced solifluction deposits, blockfields and blockstreams, and stone garlands. [27] [28]


Scientists from the Center for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment (CAGE) and Climate at the Arctic University of Norway, published a study in June 2017 [31] describing over a hundred ocean sediment craters, some 3,000 meters wide and up to 300 meters deep, formed by explosive eruptions of methane from destabilized methane hydrates, following ice-sheet retreat during the last glacial period, around 12,000 years ago. These areas around the Barents Sea still seep methane today. The study hypothesized that existing bulges containing methane reservoirs could eventually have the same fate.

Named local glaciations

Antarctica glaciation

During the last glacial period Antarctica was blanketed by a massive ice sheet, much as it is today. The ice covered all land areas and extended into the ocean onto the middle and outer continental shelf. [32] [33] According to ice modelling, ice over central East Antarctica was generally thinner than today. [34]


Devensian and Midlandian glaciation (Britain and Ireland)

British geologists refer to the last glacial period as the Devensian. Irish geologists, geographers, and archaeologists refer to the Midlandian glaciation as its effects in Ireland are largely visible in the Irish Midlands. The name Devensian is derived from the Latin Dēvenses, people living by the Dee (Dēva in Latin), a river on the Welsh border near which deposits from the period are particularly well represented. [35]

The effects of this glaciation can be seen in many geological features of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Its deposits have been found overlying material from the preceding Ipswichian stage and lying beneath those from the following Holocene, which is the stage we are living in today. This is sometimes called the Flandrian interglacial in Britain.

The latter part of the Devensian includes Pollen zones I-IV, the Allerød oscillation and Bølling oscillation, and Oldest Dryas, the Older Dryas and Younger Dryas cold periods.

Weichselian glaciation (Scandinavia and northern Europe)

Europe during the last glacial period Weichsel-Wurm-Glaciation.png
Europe during the last glacial period

Alternative names include: Weichsel glaciation or Vistulian glaciation (referring to the Polish river Vistula or its German name Weichsel). Evidence suggests that the ice sheets were at their maximum size for only a short period, between 25,000 and 13,000 BP. Eight interstadials have been recognized in the Weichselian, including: the Oerel, Glinde, Moershoofd, Hengelo and Denekamp; however correlation with isotope stages is still in process. [36] [37] During the glacial maximum in Scandinavia, only the western parts of Jutland were ice-free, and a large part of what is today the North Sea was dry land connecting Jutland with Britain (see Doggerland).

The Baltic Sea, with its unique brackish water, is a result of meltwater from the Weichsel glaciation combining with saltwater from the North Sea when the straits between Sweden and Denmark opened. Initially, when the ice began melting about 10,300 BP, seawater filled the isostatically depressed area, a temporary marine incursion that geologists dub the Yoldia Sea. Then, as post-glacial isostatic rebound lifted the region about 9500 BP, the deepest basin of the Baltic became a freshwater lake, in palaeological contexts referred to as Ancylus Lake, which is identifiable in the freshwater fauna found in sediment cores. The lake was filled by glacial runoff, but as worldwide sea level continued rising, saltwater again breached the sill about 8000 BP, forming a marine Littorina Sea which was followed by another freshwater phase before the present brackish marine system was established. "At its present state of development, the marine life of the Baltic Sea is less than about 4000 years old", Drs. Thulin and Andrushaitis remarked when reviewing these sequences in 2003.

Overlying ice had exerted pressure on the Earth's surface. As a result of melting ice, the land has continued to rise yearly in Scandinavia, mostly in northern Sweden and Finland where the land is rising at a rate of as much as 8–9 mm per year, or 1 meter in 100 years. This is important for archaeologists since a site that was coastal in the Nordic Stone Age now is inland and can be dated by its relative distance from the present shore.

Würm glaciation (Alps)

Extent of Alpine glaciation during the Wurm ice age. Blue: extent of the early ice ages: Map of Alpine Glaciations.png
Extent of Alpine glaciation during the Würm ice age. Blue: extent of the early ice ages:

The term Würm is derived from a river in the Alpine foreland, approximately marking the maximum glacier advance of this particular glacial period. The Alps were where the first systematic scientific research on ice ages was conducted by Louis Agassiz at the beginning of the 19th century. Here the Würm glaciation of the last glacial period was intensively studied. Pollen analysis, the statistical analyses of microfossilized plant pollens found in geological deposits, chronicled the dramatic changes in the European environment during the Würm glaciation. During the height of Würm glaciation, c.24,000 – c.10,000 BP, most of western and central Europe and Eurasia was open steppe-tundra, while the Alps presented solid ice fields and montane glaciers. Scandinavia and much of Britain were under ice.

During the Würm, the Rhône Glacier covered the whole western Swiss plateau, reaching today's regions of Solothurn and Aarau. In the region of Bern it merged with the Aar glacier. The Rhine Glacier is currently the subject of the most detailed studies. Glaciers of the Reuss and the Limmat advanced sometimes as far as the Jura. Montane and piedmont glaciers formed the land by grinding away virtually all traces of the older Günz and Mindel glaciation, by depositing base moraines and terminal moraines of different retraction phases and loess deposits, and by the pro-glacial rivers' shifting and redepositing gravels. Beneath the surface, they had profound and lasting influence on geothermal heat and the patterns of deep groundwater flow.

North America

Pinedale or Fraser glaciation (Rocky Mountains)

The Pinedale (central Rocky Mountains) or Fraser (Cordilleran Ice Sheet) glaciation was the last of the major glaciations to appear in the Rocky Mountains in the United States. The Pinedale lasted from approximately 30,000 to 10,000 years ago and was at its greatest extent between 23,500 and 21,000 years ago. [38] This glaciation was somewhat distinct from the main Wisconsin glaciation as it was only loosely related to the giant ice sheets and was instead composed of mountain glaciers, merging into the Cordilleran Ice Sheet. [39] The Cordilleran Ice Sheet produced features such as glacial Lake Missoula, which would break free from its ice dam causing the massive Missoula Floods. USGS geologists estimate that the cycle of flooding and reformation of the lake lasted an average of 55 years and that the floods occurred approximately 40 times over the 2,000 year period between 15,000 and 13,000 years ago. [40] Glacial lake outburst floods such as these are not uncommon today in Iceland and other places.

Wisconsin glaciation

The Wisconsin Glacial Episode was the last major advance of continental glaciers in the North American Laurentide Ice Sheet. At the height of glaciation the Bering land bridge potentially permitted migration of mammals, including people, to North America from Siberia.

It radically altered the geography of North America north of the Ohio River. At the height of the Wisconsin Episode glaciation, ice covered most of Canada, the Upper Midwest, and New England, as well as parts of Montana and Washington. On Kelleys Island in Lake Erie or in New York's Central Park, the grooves left by these glaciers can be easily observed. In southwestern Saskatchewan and southeastern Alberta a suture zone between the Laurentide and Cordilleran ice sheets formed the Cypress Hills, which is the northernmost point in North America that remained south of the continental ice sheets.

The Great Lakes are the result of glacial scour and pooling of meltwater at the rim of the receding ice. When the enormous mass of the continental ice sheet retreated, the Great Lakes began gradually moving south due to isostatic rebound of the north shore. Niagara Falls is also a product of the glaciation, as is the course of the Ohio River, which largely supplanted the prior Teays River.

With the assistance of several very broad glacial lakes, it released floods through the gorge of the Upper Mississippi River, which in turn was formed during an earlier glacial period.

In its retreat, the Wisconsin Episode glaciation left terminal moraines that form Long Island, Block Island, Cape Cod, Nomans Land, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, Sable Island, and the Oak Ridges Moraine in south central Ontario, Canada. In Wisconsin itself, it left the Kettle Moraine. The drumlins and eskers formed at its melting edge are landmarks of the Lower Connecticut River Valley.

Tahoe, Tenaya, and Tioga, Sierra Nevada

In the Sierra Nevada, there are three named stages of glacial maxima (sometimes incorrectly called ice ages) separated by warmer periods. These glacial maxima are called, from oldest to youngest, Tahoe, Tenaya, and Tioga. [41] The Tahoe reached its maximum extent perhaps about 70,000 years ago. Little is known about the Tenaya. The Tioga was the least severe and last of the Wisconsin Episode. It began about 30,000 years ago, reached its greatest advance 21,000 years ago, and ended about 10,000 years ago.

Greenland glaciation

In Northwest Greenland, ice coverage attained a very early maximum in the last glacial period around 114,000. After this early maximum, the ice coverage was similar to today until the end of the last glacial period. Towards the end, glaciers readvanced once more before retreating to their present extent. [42] According to ice core data, the Greenland climate was dry during the last glacial period, precipitation reaching perhaps only 20% of today's value. [43]

South America

Mérida glaciation (Venezuelan Andes)

Map showing the extent of the glaciated area in Venezuelan Andes during the Merida glaciation Merida Glaciation in Venezuelan Andes.png
Map showing the extent of the glaciated area in Venezuelan Andes during the Mérida glaciation

The name Mérida Glaciation is proposed to designate the alpine glaciation which affected the central Venezuelan Andes during the Late Pleistocene. Two main moraine levels have been recognized: one with an elevation of 2,600–2,700 m (8,500–8,900 ft), and another with an elevation of 3,000–3,500 m (9,800–11,500 ft). The snow line during the last glacial advance was lowered approximately 1,200 m (3,900 ft) below the present snow line, which is 3,700 m (12,100 ft). The glaciated area in the Cordillera de Mérida was approximately 600  km2 (230  sq mi ); this included the following high areas from southwest to northeast: Páramo de Tamá, Páramo Batallón, Páramo Los Conejos, Páramo Piedras Blancas, and Teta de Niquitao. Approximately 200 km2 (77 sq mi) of the total glaciated area was in the Sierra Nevada de Mérida, and of that amount, the largest concentration, 50 km2 (19 sq mi), was in the areas of Pico Bolívar, Pico Humboldt [4,942 m (16,214 ft)], and Pico Bonpland [4,983 m (16,348 ft)]. Radiocarbon dating indicates that the moraines are older than 10,000 BP, and probably older than 13,000 BP. The lower moraine level probably corresponds to the main Wisconsin glacial advance. The upper level probably represents the last glacial advance (Late Wisconsin). [44] [45] [46] [47] [48] [49]

Llanquihue glaciation (Southern Andes)

Map showing the extent of the Patagonian Ice Sheet in the Strait of Magellan area during the last glacial period. Selected modern settlements are shown with yellow dots. Magellanglaciacion.jpg
Map showing the extent of the Patagonian Ice Sheet in the Strait of Magellan area during the last glacial period. Selected modern settlements are shown with yellow dots.

The Llanquihue glaciation takes its name from Llanquihue Lake in southern Chile which is a fan-shaped piedmont glacial lake. On the lake's western shores there are large moraine systems of which the innermost belong to the last glacial period. Llanquihue Lake's varves are a node point in southern Chile's varve geochronology. During the last glacial maximum the Patagonian Ice Sheet extended over the Andes from about 35°S to Tierra del Fuego at 55°S. The western part appears to have been very active, with wet basal conditions, while the eastern part was cold based. Cryogenic features like ice wedges, patterned ground, pingos, rock glaciers, palsas, soil cryoturbation, solifluction deposits developed in unglaciated extra-Andean Patagonia during the Last Glaciation. However, not all these reported features have been verified. [50] The area west of Llanquihue Lake was ice-free during the LGM, and had sparsely distributed vegetation dominated by Nothofagus . Valdivian temperate rain forest was reduced to scattered remnants in the western side of the Andes. [51]

Modelled maximum extent of the Antarctic ice sheet 21,000 years before present Antarctica glacial hg.svg
Modelled maximum extent of the Antarctic ice sheet 21,000 years before present

See also

Historical names of the "four major" glacials in four regions.
RegionGlacial 1Glacial 2Glacial 3Glacial 4
Alps Günz Mindel Riss Würm
North Europe Eburonian Elsterian Saalian Weichselian
British Isles Beestonian Anglian Wolstonian Devensian
Midwest U.S. Nebraskan Kansan Illinoian Wisconsinan


  1. Prior to the 2010s there was considerable debate on whether Southern Africa was glaciated during the last glacial cycle or not. [27] [28]
  2. The former existence of large glaciers or deep snow cover over much of the Lesotho Highlands has been judged unlikely considering the lack of glacial morphology (e.g. rôche moutonnées) and the existence of periglacial regolith that has not been reworked by glaciers. [28] Estimates of the mean annual temperature in Southern Africa during the Last Glacial Maximum indicate the temperatures were not low enough to initiate or sustain a widespread glaciation. The former existence of rock glaciers or large glaciers is according to the same study ruled out, because of a lack of conclusive field evidence and the implausibility of the 10-17° C temperature drop, relative to the present, that such features would imply. [27]

Related Research Articles

Holocene The current geological epoch, covering the last 11,700 years

The Holocene is the current geological epoch. It began approximately 11,650 cal years before present, after the last glacial period, which concluded with the Holocene glacial retreat. The Holocene and the preceding Pleistocene together form the Quaternary period. The Holocene has been identified with the current warm period, known as MIS 1. It is considered by some to be an interglacial period within the Pleistocene Epoch, called the Flandrian interglacial.

Ice age Period of long-term reduction in temperature of Earths surface and atmosphere

An ice age is a long period of reduction in the temperature of the Earth's surface and atmosphere, resulting in the presence or expansion of continental and polar ice sheets and alpine glaciers. Earth's climate alternates between ice ages and greenhouse periods, during which there are no glaciers on the planet. Earth is currently in the Quaternary glaciation, known in popular terminology as the Ice Age. Individual pulses of cold climate within an ice age are termed "glacial periods", and intermittent warm periods within an ice age are called "interglacials" or "interstadials", with both climatic pulses part of the Quaternary or other periods in Earth's history.

The Pleistocene is the geological epoch that lasted from about 2,580,000 to 11,700 years ago, spanning the world's most recent period of repeated glaciations. The end of the Pleistocene corresponds with the end of the last glacial period and also with the end of the Paleolithic age used in archaeology.

Timeline of glaciation Chronology of the major ice ages of the Earth

There have been five or six major ice ages in the history of Earth over the past 3 billion years. The Late Cenozoic Ice Age began 34 million years ago, its latest phase being the Quaternary glaciation, in progress since 2.58 million years ago.

Würm glaciation glacial period in the Alps

The Würm glaciation or Würm stage, in the literature usually just referred to as the Würm, often spelt "Wurm", was the last glacial period in the Alpine region. It is the youngest of the major glaciations of the region that extended beyond the Alps themselves. It is, like most of the other ice ages of the Pleistocene epoch, named after a river, the Würm in Bavaria, a tributary of the Amper. The Würm ice age can be dated to the time about 115,000 to 11,700 years ago, the sources differing depending on whether the long transition phases between the glacials and interglacials are allocated to one or other of these periods. The average annual temperatures during the Würm ice age in the Alpine Foreland were below −3 °C. This has been determined from changes in the vegetation as well as differences in the facies.

A glacial period is an interval of time within an ice age that is marked by colder temperatures and glacier advances. Interglacials, on the other hand, are periods of warmer climate between glacial periods. The Last Glacial Period ended about 15,000 years ago. The Holocene is the current interglacial. A time with no glaciers on Earth is considered a greenhouse climate state.

Last Glacial Maximum Most recent glacial maximum during the Last Glacial Period that ice sheets were at their greatest extent

The Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) was the most recent time during the Last Glacial Period that ice sheets were at their greatest extent. Vast ice sheets covered much of North America, Northern Europe, and Asia and profoundly affected Earth's climate by causing drought, desertification, and a large drop in sea levels. According to Clark et al., growth of ice sheets commenced 33,000 years ago and maximum coverage was between 26,500 years and 19–20,000 years ago, when deglaciation commenced in the Northern Hemisphere, causing an abrupt rise in sea level. Decline of the West Antarctica ice sheet occurred between 14,000 and 15,000 years ago, consistent with evidence for another abrupt rise in the sea level about 14,500 years ago.

Anglian stage

The Anglian Stage is the name used in the British Isles for a middle Pleistocene glaciation. It precedes the Hoxnian Stage and follows the Cromerian Stage in the British Isles. The Anglian Stage is correlated to Marine Isotope Stage 12, which started about 478,000 years ago and ended about 424,000 years ago.

The Wolstonian Stage is a middle Pleistocene stage of the geological history of Earth that precedes the Ipswichian Stage and follows the Hoxnian Stage in the British Isles. The Wolstonian Stage apparently includes three periods of glaciation. The Wolstonian Stage is temporally analogous to the Warthe Stage and Saalian Stage in northern Europe and the Riss glaciation in the Alps, and temporally equivalent to all of the Illinoian Stage and the youngest part of the Pre-Illinoian Stage in North America. It is contemporaneous with the North American Pre-Illinoian A, Early Illinoian, and Late Illinoian glaciations. The Wolstonian Stage is equivalent to Marine Isotope stages 6 through 10. It started 352,000 years ago and ended 130,000 years ago.

The Illinoian Stage is the name used by Quaternary geologists in North America to designate the period c.191,000 to c.130,000 years ago, during the middle Pleistocene, when sediments comprising the Illinoian Glacial Lobe were deposited. It precedes the Sangamonian Stage and follows the Pre-Illinoian Stage in North America. The Illinoian Stage is defined as the period of geologic time during which the glacial tills and outwash, which comprise the bulk of the Glasford Formation, accumulated to create the Illinoian Glacial Lobe. It occurs at about the same time as the penultimate glacial period.

Late Pleistocene Third division (unofficial) of the Pleistocene Epoch

The Late Pleistocene is an unofficial age in the international geologic timescale in chronostratigraphy, also known as Upper Pleistocene from a stratigraphic perspective. It is intended to be the fourth division of the Pleistocene Epoch within the ongoing Quaternary Period. It is currently estimated to span the time between c. 129,000 and c. 11,700 years ago. The Late Pleistocene equates to the proposed Tarantian Age of the geologic time scale, preceded by the officially ratified Chibanian and succeeded by the officially ratified Greenlandian. The estimated beginning of the Tarantian is the start of the Eemian interglacial period. It is held to end with the termination of the Younger Dryas, some 11,700 years ago when the Holocene Epoch began.

Quaternary glaciation Series of alternating glacial and interglacial periods

The Quaternary glaciation, also known as the Pleistocene glaciation, is an alternating series of glacial and interglacial periods during the Quaternary period that began 2.58 Ma, and is ongoing. Although geologists describe the entire time period as an "ice age", in popular culture the term "ice age" is usually associated with just the most recent glacial period during the Pleistocene. Since planet Earth still has ice sheets, geologists consider the Quaternary glaciation to be ongoing, with the Earth now experiencing an interglacial period.

The Holocene glacial retreat is a geographical phenomenon that involved the global deglaciation of glaciers that previously had advanced during the Last Glacial Maximum. Ice sheet retreat initiated ca. 19,000 years ago and accelerated after ca. 15,000 years ago. The Holocene, starting with abrupt warming 11,700 years ago, resulted in rapid melting of the remaining ice sheets of North America and Europe. The retreat of glaciers altered landscapes in many ways and is currently still acting as a result of climate change.

Tunnel valley A U-shaped valley originally cut by water under the glacial ice near the margin of continental ice sheets

A tunnel valley is a U-shaped valley originally cut under the glacial ice near the margin of continental ice sheets such as that now covering Antarctica and formerly covering portions of all continents during past glacial ages. They can be as long as 100 km (62 mi), 4 km (2.5 mi) wide, and 400 m (1,300 ft) deep.


The neoglaciation describes the documented cooling trend in the Earth's climate during the Holocene, following the retreat of the Wisconsin glaciation, the most recent glacial period. Neoglaciation has followed the hypsithermal or Holocene Climatic Optimum, the warmest point in the Earth's climate during the current interglacial stage. The neoglaciation has no well-marked universal beginning: local conditions and ecological inertia affected the onset of detectably cooler conditions.

The Pre-Illinoian Stage is used by Quaternary geologists for the early and middle Pleistocene glacial and interglacial periods of geologic time in North America from ~2.5–0.2 Ma.

Weichselian glaciation glacial period

Weichselian glaciation refers to the last glacial period and its associated glaciation in northern parts of Europe. In the Alpine region it corresponds to the Würm glaciation. It was characterized by a large ice sheet that spread out from the Scandinavian Mountains and extended as far as the east coast of Schleswig-Holstein, the March of Brandenburg and Northwest Russia.

Vashon Glaciation

The Vashon Glaciation, Vashon Stadial or Vashon Stade is a local term for the most recent period of very cold climate in which during its peak, glaciers covered the entire Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca as well as present day Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia and other surrounding areas in the western part of present-day Washington (state) of the United States of America. This occurred during a cold period around the world known as the last glacial period. This was the most recent cold period of the Pleistocene Ice Age. The Pleistocene Glaciation is the ice age that the planet is currently in and has been in for the last 2.58 million years. It is the time period in which the arctic ice sheets have existed. The Pleistocene Ice Age is part of an even longer ice age called the Late Cenozoic Ice Age, which began 33.9 million years ago and is ongoing. It is the time period in which the Antarctic ice cap has existed.

Llanquihue glaciation

The last glacial period and its associated glaciation is known in southern Chile as the Llanquihue glaciation. Its type area lies west of Llanquihue Lake where various drifts or end moraine systems belonging to the last glacial period have been identified. The glaciation is the last episode of existence of the Patagonian Ice Sheet.

Don Glaciation The Don Glaciation (MIS 16) was a major glaciation of eastern Europe, approximately 650,000 years ago.

The Don Glaciation, also known as the Donian Glaciation and the Donian Stage, was the major glaciation of the East European Plain, 0.5–0.8 million years ago, during the Cromerian Stage of the Middle Pleistocene. It is correlated to Marine Isotope Stage 16, approximately 650,000 years ago, which globally contained one of the largest glacial volumes of the Quaternary.


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Further reading