The world has two major ice sheets – in Antarctica and Greenland – but their histories are completely different. The Antarctic ice sheet evolved over 30 million years ago when South America separated from Antarctica to create the Drake Passage. This allowed the Circumpolar Current to form, isolating Antarctica and turning it into the coldest, highest, and driest continent. Greenland is the last major remnant of continental ice sheets that have grown over large parts of North America and Europe repeatedly for the last 2 million years. In this chapter, we will meet Milutin Milanković and learn about his theory for ice ages. Ice sheets over Europe and North America lowered sea level by 130 m, and when they melted, there were huge floods in Washington State in the west, as well as in Eastern Canada. The rising sea level had many consequences: it refilled the Black Sea, possibly explaining the biblical flood story. Rising sea level flooded the Gulf of Carpentaria in Australia and the Persian Gulf Oasis. All the fish, kelp, and corals living on the continental shelves today, including the Great Barrier Reef, are recent arrivals that only moved in over the last 10,000 years or so.
KeywordsAntarctic glaciation Ice-rafted debris Milutin Milanković Glacial erratic Pleistocene Ice age Milanković theory Solar insolation Ice sheet Ice shelves Sea ice Missoula Floods Lake Agassiz Younger Dryas Black Sea Noah’s flood Tidal range Great Barrier Reef
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