The Quaternary glaciation, also known as the Pleistocene glaciation, is an alternating series of glacial and interglacial periods during the Quaternary period that began 2.58 Ma (million years ago) and is ongoing. Although geologists describe the entire time period up to the present as an "ice age", in popular culture the term "ice age" is usually associated with just the most recent glacial period during the Pleistocene or the Pleistocene epoch in general. Since planet Earth still has ice sheets, geologists consider the Quaternary glaciation to be ongoing, with the Earth now experiencing an interglacial period.
During the Quaternary glaciation, ice sheets appeared. During glacial periods they expanded, and during interglacial periods they contracted. Since the end of the last glacial period, the only surviving ice sheets are the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. Other ice sheets, such as the Laurentide Ice Sheet, formed during glacial periods, had completely melted and disappeared during interglacials. The major effects of the Quaternary glaciation have been the erosion of land and the deposition of material, both over large parts of the continents; the modification of river systems; the creation of millions of lakes, including the development of pluvial lakes far from the ice margins; changes in sea level; the isostatic adjustment of the Earth's crust; flooding; and abnormal winds. The ice sheets themselves, by raising the albedo (the extent to which the radiant energy of the Sun is reflected from Earth) created significant feedback to further cool the climate. These effects have shaped entire environments on land and in the oceans, and in their associated biological communities.... ...read more