A glacial period (alternatively glacial or glaciation) is an interval of time (thousands of years) within an ice age that is marked by colder temperatures and glacier advances. Interglacials, on the other hand, are periods of warmer climate between glacial periods. The last glacial period ended about 15,000 years ago. The Holocene epoch is the current interglacial. A time with no glaciers on Earth is considered a greenhouse climate state.
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The Penultimate Glacial Period (PGP) is the glacial period that occurred before the Last Glacial Period. It began ~194,000 years ago, and ended 135,000 years ago with the beginning of the Eemian interglacial.
The last glacial period was the most recent glacial period within the Quaternary Ice Age, occurring in the Pleistocene epoch, which began about 110,000 years ago and ended about 15,000 years ago. The glaciations that occurred during this glacial period covered many areas of the Northern Hemisphere and have different names, depending on their geographic distributions: Wisconsin (in North America), Devensian (in Great Britain), Midlandian (in Ireland), Würm (in the Alps), Weichsel (in northern central Europe), Dali (in East China), Beiye (in North China), Taibai (in Shaanxi) Luojishan (in Southwest Sichuan), Zagunao (in Northwest Sichuan), Tianchi (in Tianshan Mountains) Qomolangma (in Himalaya), and Llanquihue (in Chile). The glacial advance reached its maximum extent about 26,500 BP. In Europe, the ice sheet reached Northern Germany. In the last 650,000 years, there were, on average, seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat.
Since orbital variations are predictable, computer models that relate orbital variations to climate can predict future climate possibilities. Work by Berger and Loutre suggests that the current warm climate may last another 50,000 years. The amount of heat trapping (greenhouse) gases being emitted into Earth's Oceans and atmosphere may delay the next glacial period by an additional 50,000 years.
|url=value (help). Proceedings of the Ocean Drilling Program. Initial Reports. Proceedings of the Ocean Drilling Program. Proceedings of the Ocean drilling program. 198: 47. doi:10.2973/odp.proc.ir.198.2002. ISSN 1096-2158. Retrieved April 9, 2014.