Last Glacial Maximum: How Cold Was It?


Scientists Project Precisely How Cold the Last Ice Age Was

by Nora McGreevy/

About 20,000 years ago, miles of icy glaciers stretched across parts of Europe, Asia, South America and North America, while woolly mammoths, mastodons and saber-toothed cats roamed the land.

Scientists call this period, the point during the Ice Age at which the glaciers covered their largest extent, the Last Glacial Maximum. “We have a lot of data about this time period because it has been studied for so long,” says Jessica Tierney, climate scientist at the University of Arizona, in a statement. “But one question science has long wanted answers to is simple: How cold was the ice age?”

Now, in a study published in Nature this week, lead author Tierney and her team have successfully projected the average global temperature during the Last Glacial Maximum. Based on their models, the researchers found that the global average temperature from 19,000 to 23,000 years ago was about 46 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s about 11 degrees Fahrenheit (6 degrees Celsius) colder than the global average temperature of the 20th century, per a University of Michigan statement.

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