This post is by Pallavi Rao from Visual Capitalist


Click to view this graphic in a higher-resolution.

A map of the Earth 20,000 years ago, at the peak of the last ice age, when colder temperatures transformed the planet 
we know so well.

What Did the World Look Like in the Last Ice Age?

What did the world look like during the last ice age? Was it all endless glaciers and frozen ice? The answer is a partial yes—with some interesting caveats.

The Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), colloquially called the last ice age, was a period in Earth’s history that occurred roughly 26,000 to 19,000 years ago.

This map by cartographer Perrin Remonté offers a snapshot of the Earth from that time, using data of past sea levels and glaciers from research published in 2009, 2014, and 2021, alongside modern-day topographical data.

Let’s dive into the differences between the two Earths below.

The Last Ice Age: Low Seas, Exposed Landmasses

During an ice age, sea levels fall as ocean water that evaporates is stored on land on a large scale (ice sheets, ice caps, glaciers) instead of returning to the ocean.

Earth’s Ice Cover20,000 Years AgoToday
Surface8%3%
Land25%11%

At the time of the LGM, the climate was cold and dry with temperatures that were 6 °C (11 °F) lower on average. Water levels in the ocean were more than 400 feet below what they are now, exposing large areas of the continental shelf.

In the map above, these areas are represented as the gray, dry land most noticeable in a few big patches in Southeast Asia and between Russia and Alaska. Here are a (Read more…)