Ice age

An ice age is a long period of reduction in the temperature of 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 in the Quaternary glaciation.[1] Individual pulses of cold climate within an ice age are termed glacial periods (or, alternatively, glacials, glaciations, glacial stages, stadials, stades, or colloquially, ice ages), and intermittent warm periods within an ice age are called interglacials or interstadials.[2]

An artist's impression of ice age Earth at glacial maximum.

In glaciology, ice age implies the presence of extensive ice sheets in the northern and southern hemispheres.[3] By this definition, Earth is in an interglacial period—the Holocene. The amount of anthropogenic greenhouse gases emitted into Earth's oceans and atmosphere is predicted to delay the next glacial period by between 100,000 and 500,000 years, which otherwise would begin in around 50,000 years.[4][5][6]

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