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John Wheeler, Published May 10 2009

Weather Talk: A glacial perspective offered as spring finally arrives

Well, it does appear that there is going to be spring this year. Ice has left the lakes, elms are leafing out, and summer birds are returning to the area flock by flock.

Against the backdrop of this seasonal period of renewed optimism, here is a bit of sobering perspective: For approximately

2½ million years, the Earth has been in the throes of an ice age in which glaciers have covered large proportions of the land at middle and high latitudes for periods of approximately 100,000 years at a time. These glacial periods have been interspersed with shorter, 12,000- to 25,000-year periods of warmer weather during which our climate was similar to the present.

The Red River Valley was still covered in the ice of the great Laurentide glacier until about 12,000 years ago. The period of relative warmth, known as the Holocene interglacial period, has been marked by smaller-scale glacial advances and retreats. The past couple of hundred years have been marked by a general glacial retreat.


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