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The times in the past when ice sheets or glaciers covered large parts of the earth’s surface. Ice ages last for a few million years and seem to come in cycles. An ice age is often interrupted by shorter, more temperate “interglacial” periods. During the most recent ice age, which ended about twelve thousand years ago, much of Northern Europe and North America looked the way Antarctica does today—a frozen and bleak landscape. We are in a warming period now.