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An ice age, which is also called a glacial, is a period in time where the climate on Earth is significantly colder then the period before and after. Ice ages (glacials) and warmer periods (interglacials) alternated during the Quaternary. The most important cause for an ice age lie in astronomical variations like the Milankovi? cycles. Volcanic activity (CO2) and solar activity are also considerable factors in the formation of an ice age. One significant factor for the formation of an ice age is the presence of (large) landmasses near poles where (large) ice sheets can form. The presence of landmasses near the poles during the geological history wasn’t always the case.
During an ice age land based ice sheets quickly expand, covering vast areas of land. Both during the ice ages of the Elsterien and the Saalien the land ice reached the Netherlands in northern Europe and covered a large part of North America. The ice masses that covered the Netherlands created large end-moraines that are still visible in the landscape today. During the Weichselian, the last ice age, the ice masses only came as far as Northern Germany. An ice age has a tremendous effect on the worldwide climate and has a large impact on life on Earth.
Apart from the ice ages during the Quarternary other ice ages occurred in the geological timetable. There are indications that there where multiple ice ages during the Precambrian although a lot is still unclear about these periods. There are signs that during one of these ice ages the whole world was covered with ice. The next ice age occurred at the end of the Ordovician with a period of multiple glaciations. These glaciations are a possible cause for the mass-extinction occurring at that time. There where also ice ages during the late Carboniferous up to the lower Permian period.
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