Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Quaternary ice age explained

  • Written by  Olivia Edward
  • Published in Climate
Eqi Glacier, Port Victor, Greenland Eqi Glacier, Port Victor, Greenland Petra Christen, Shutterstock
01 Aug
2014
A new study published in Scientific Reports has put forward a novel theory to explain the origin of the Quaternary ice age, which covered large parts of the Northern Hemisphere 2.6 million years ago

The study suggests that the joining of North and South America changed the salinity of the Pacific Ocean, which led to major ice sheet growth across the Northern Hemisphere.

The theory was based on an analysis of deposits of wind-blown dust, known as red clay, that accumulated between six million and two and a half million years ago in north-central China, adjacent to the Tibetan plateau. This allowed the researchers to reconstruct the regional history of monsoon precipitation and temperature.

They suggest that the change in salinity encouraged sea ice to form. This, in turn, altered the wind patterns, leading to an intensification of the monsoon, which provided moisture that fell as snowfall, causing ice sheets to grow to depths of up to three kilometres. They found that instead of intense rainfall being associated with warmer climates, global cooling caused the monsoon to strengthen.

‘The intensified monsoons created a positive feedback cycle, promoting more global cooling, more sea ice and even stronger precipitation, culminating in the spread of huge glaciers across the Northern Hemisphere,’ said Thomas Stevens of Royal Holloway, University of London.

This story was published in the August 2014 edition of Geographical Magazine 

Julysub 2020

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

geo line break v3

geo line break v3

University of Winchester

geo line break v3

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Wildlife

Increasing reports of seized jaguar fangs and skin suggest that…

Geophoto

Forced isolation has given many of us the chance to…

Oceans

A fifth of the ocean floor has now been mapped,…

Wildlife

Four ex-circus lions discovered in France are due to be…

Oceans

A roundup of some of the top discussions from the…

Energy

The agave plant, used to make Tequila, has proven itself…

Climate

Concerns about the ozone hole have diminished as levels of…

Wildlife

In the Eastern Cape of South Africa, Munu – a…

Geophoto

Photography competition, Earth Photo, returns for the third year with…

Oceans

A new study reveals the process behind the strange phenomenon…

Wildlife

Hunting is a topic that attracts polarised viewpoints. But as…

Oceans

A compilation of 50-years worth of data on human activity…

Wildlife

From the US to the Mediterranean, herds of goats are…

Wildlife

Meet the 2020 Whitley Award winners

Wildlife

Protecting the most famous members of the animal kingdom may…

Climate

With Milan announcing an ambitious new plan to reduce air…