The Holocene Epoch

Northern Hemisphere ice sheets have waxed and waned on 100,000 year timescales for at least 600,000 years and the approximately 10,000 years since the waning of the last Pleistocene glacial maximum are known as the Holocene Epoch. The Holocene is the shortest Cenozoic epoch and Holocene climate change is negligible compared to that in longer epochs. However, due to its recent nature, the records of the Holocene climate are better preserved than those of prior epochs and indicate smaller-scale, but significant, climate changes even within this short time span. Potentially the most significant Holo-cene climate changes are yet to come, as evidence of anthropogenic climate impacts and modern climate change continues to grow. Depending on the ultimate levels of greenhouse gases released by humans, climate change in the end of the Cenozoic Era has the potential to be as significant as the climate changes of the previous 65 million years.

See ALSO: Earth's Climate History; Ice Ages; Orbital Parameters, Eccentricity; Orbital Parameters, Obliquity; Orbital Parameters, Precession; Paleoclimates.

BIBLIOGRApHY. T.J. Crowley and G.R. North, Paleo-climatology (Oxford University Press, 1995); James Zachos et al., "Trends, Rhythms, and Aberrations in Global Climate 65 Ma to Present," Science (v.292, 2001).

Jacob O. Sewall Virginia Tech

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