Holocene glacial retreat

Global deglaciation starting about 19,000 years ago and accelerating about 15,000 years ago For recent (post-Little Ice Age) effects, see Retreat of glaciers since 1850. (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

The Holocene glacial retreat is a geographical phenomenon that involved the global deglaciation of glaciers that previously had advanced during the Last Glacial Maximum. Ice sheet retreat initiated ca. 19,000 years ago and accelerated after ca. 15,000 years ago. The Holocene, starting with abrupt warming 11,700 years ago, resulted in rapid melting of the remaining ice sheets of North America and Europe.


Geographical alterations


Fragments of Larsen B ice shelf lingered until 2005.

Radiocarbon dating has been used to date the start of glacial retreat on Alexander island 18,000 years ago. The outermost locations like Marguerite Bay were fully deglaciated 12,000 years ago and the further inland locations continued deglaciating for an additional 3,000 years. The Larsen ice shelf was formed in the early Holocene at a latest estimation of 10,700 years ago. Certain segments of the ice shelf have collapsed as recently as 1995 for Larsen A and a large segment of Larsen B collapsed in 2002.


The many valleys of the Cairngorms, a mountainous region in the Eastern Scottish Highlands are littered with deposits from this period.

In northwestern Iceland, the Icelandic ice sheet began its non-uniform retreat about 15,000 years ago. Surface exposure dating using the isotope 36Cl was the primary means of dating boulders and terminal moraines in the Drangajökull area in Iceland. Ages of erratic boulders found near the Leirufjörður valley and moraine range from 7-12 thousand years old. The average ages for the groupings of boulders in the Leirufjörður area is 9.3 thousand years ago. Directly south of Leirufjörður in the Kaldalon Valley the average age of the boulders is 15,000 years old. The two different average ages are a result of different rates of glacial activity in Iceland.

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