Earth’s Ice Age temperatures

Human hunting is believed to have contributed to mass extinctions globally of many species at the end of the Ice Age.

By   |  Published: 15th Sep 2020  8:30 pm

An ice age is a period of colder global temperatures that features recurring glacial expansion across the Earth’s surface. Capable of lasting hundreds of millions of years, these periods are interspersed with regular warmer interglacial intervals in which at least one major ice sheet is present. Earth is currently in the midst of an ice age, as the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets remain intact despite moderate temperatures.

Guided by ocean plankton fossils and climate models, scientists have calculated just how cold it got on Earth during the depths of the last Ice Age, when immense ice sheets covered large parts of North America, South America, Europe and Asia.

The average global temperature during the period known as the Last Glacial Maximum from roughly 23,000 to 19,000 years ago was about 46 degrees Fahrenheit (7.8 degrees Celsius), some 13 degrees Fahrenheit (7 Celsius) colder than 2019, the researchers said.

Certain regions were much cooler than the global average, they found. The polar regions cooled far more than the tropics, with the Arctic region 25 degrees Fahrenheit (14 degree Celsius) colder than the global average.

Chemical measurements

The researchers made their calculations with the aid of chemical measurements on tiny fossils of zooplankton and the preserved structures of fats from other types of plankton that change in response to water temperature – what they called a “temperature proxy.”  This information was then plugged into climate model simulations to calculate average global temperatures.

Large mammals 

During the Ice Age, which lasted from about 115,000 to 11,000 years ago, large mammals well adapted to a cold climate such as the mammoths, mastodons, woolly rhinos and saber-toothed cats roamed the landscape.

Humans entered North America for the first time during the Ice Age, crossing a land bridge that once connected Siberia to Alaska with sea levels much lower than they are today.

Human hunting is believed to have contributed to mass extinctions globally of many species at the end of the Ice Age.

Life during the ice age

While Homo sapiens evolved, many vertebrates, especially large mammals, succumbed to the harsh climate conditions of this period.

One of the richest sources of information about life in the Pleistocene Epoch can be found in the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, where remains of everything from insects to plant life to animals were preserved, including a partial skeleton of a female human and a nearly complete woolly mammoth.

In addition to the woolly mammoth, mammals such as saber-toothed cats (Smilodon), giant ground sloths (Megatherium) and mastodons roamed the Earth during this period. Other mammals that thrived during this period include moonrats, tenrecs (hedgehog-like creatures) and macrauchenia (similar to a llamas and camels).

  • Scientists have predicted that the global average tempreature during the ice age was around 46 degrees Fahrenheit (7.8 degrees Celsius.)
  • However, the polar regions were far colder, around 25 degrees Fahrenheit (14 degree Celsius) colder than the global average.
  • Studying past ice ages could help us understand our climate in the future.

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