Environmental Change In The Pleistocene Epoch

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The Pleistocene epoch occurred between 2.6 million years ago and 11700 years ago, and was the base of the Quaternary; the most recent period. The most recent ice age occurred during the Pleistocene epoch, with huge parts of the Earth’s landmasses being covered by glaciers. The Pleistocene did not consist of just one great ice age. Instead, it involved frequent fluctuations of warming and cooling of the Earth’s atmosphere. This included more than 30 changes between long glacial periods where much of the world’s temperate zones were covered by glaciers and brief warmer interglacial phases where some ice sheets retreated; much like what we are living in today (Holden, 2012). In present day, ice sheets are largely confined to Greenland, Antarctica…show more content…
While orbital forcing is the primary external driver of glacial cycles, carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere plays this important internal feedback role (Pittock, 2005). Evidence for environmental change in the Pleistocene epoch include constituents of gas bubbles trapped in ice cores. According to BAS Natural Environment Research Council (2015), Ice cores are cylinders of ice drilled out of an ice sheet or glacier, with most of them coming from Antarctica and Greenland. Looking at ice cores can provide direct information about past climate change, going back as far as at least 800,000 years. They also provide evidence that under some circumstances climate can change abruptly. When air is trapped at the base of an ice core and the compacted snow turns into ice, the air is trapped in bubbles. The concentration of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane in the layers of ice cores is evidence of how climate has changed in the past, as ice core data has shown that there were high concentrations of carbon dioxide during interglacials and low levels of carbon dioxide during glacials. It also allows scientists to compare modern concentration of greenhouse gases to the past as well as links between past concentrations of greenhouse gases to temperature (Davies, 2015). Data has suggested that when there is a change in carbon dioxide concentration in the surface waters of the ocean this may affect atmospheric concentrations, which could result in the warming or cooling to the Earth’s climate. The fact that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the environment is linked to temperature shows that small changes in climate can be amplified by an increase or decrease in carbon

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