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List of periods and events in climate history

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The list of periods and events in climate history includes some notable climate events known to paleoclimatology. Knowledge of precise climatic events decreases as the record goes further back in time. The timeline of glaciation covers ice ages specifically, which tend to have their own names for phases, often with different names used for different parts of the world. The names for earlier periods and events come from geology and paleontology. The marine isotope stages (MIS) are often used to express dating within the Quaternary.

Before 1 million years ago[edit]

500 million years of climate change
Ice core data for the past 400,000 years, with the present at right. Note length of glacial cycles averages ~100,000 years. Blue curve is temperature, green curve is CO2, and red curve is windblown glacial dust (loess).

Scale: Millions of years before present, earlier dates approximate.

Before 1,000 Faint young Sun paradox
2,400 Great Oxidation Event probably leads to Huronian glaciation perhaps covering the whole globe
650–600 Later Neoproterozoic Snowball Earth or Marinoan glaciation, precursor to the Cambrian explosion
517 End-Botomian mass extinction; like the next two, little understood
502 Dresbachian extinction event
485.4 Cambrian–Ordovician extinction event
450–440 Ordovician–Silurian extinction event, in two bursts, after cooling perhaps caused by tectonic plate movement
450 Andean-Saharan glaciation
360–260 Karoo Ice Age
305 Cooler climate causes Carboniferous rainforest collapse
251.9 Permian–Triassic extinction event
199.6 Triassic–Jurassic extinction event, causes as yet unclear
66 Perhaps 30,000 years of volcanic activity form the Deccan Traps in India, or a large meteor impact.
66 Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary and Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, extinction of dinosaurs
55.8 Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum
53.7 Eocene Thermal Maximum 2
49 Azolla event may have ended a long warm period
5.3–2.6 Pliocene climate became cooler and drier, and seasonal, similar to modern climates.
2.5 to present Quaternary glaciation, with permanent ice on the polar regions, many named stages in different parts of the world


All dates are approximate. "(B-S)" means this is one of the periods from the Blytt-Sernander sequence, originally based on studies of Danish peat bogs.

118,000–88,000 Abbassia Pluvial wet in North Africa
108,000–8,000 Last Glacial Period, not to be confused with the Last Glacial Maximum or Late Glacial Maximum below.
(The following events also fall into this period.)
48,000–28,000 Mousterian Pluvial wet in North Africa
26,500–19,000 Last Glacial Maximum, what is often meant in popular usage by "Last Ice Age"
16,000–13,000 Oldest Dryas cold, begins slowly and ends sharply (B-S)
12,700 Antarctic Cold Reversal warmer Antarctic, sea level rise
12,400 Bølling oscillation warm and wet in the North Atlantic, begins the Bølling-Allerød period (B-S)
(much discussed)
Older Dryas cold, interrupts warm period for some centuries (B-S)
12,000–11,000 Allerød oscillation warm & moist (B-S)
11,400–9,500 Huelmo–Mascardi Cold Reversal cold in Southern Hemisphere
10,800–9,500 Younger Dryas sudden cold and dry period in Northern Hemisphere (B-S)
9,500–5,500 Holocene climatic optimum A warm period about 4.9 °C warmer than the LGM


All dates are BC (BCE) and approximate. "(B-S)" means this is one of the periods from the Blytt-Sernander sequence, originally based on studies of Danish peat bogs.

From 10,000 Holocene glacial retreat, the present Holocene or Postglacial period begins
9400 Pre-Boreal sharp rise in temperature over 50 years (B-S), precedes Boreal
8500–6900 Boreal (B-S), rising sea levels, forest replaces tundra in northern Europe
7500–3900 Neolithic Subpluvial/African humid period in North Africa, wet
7000–3000 Holocene climatic optimum, or Atlantic in northern Europe (B-S)
6200 8.2-kiloyear event cold
5000–4100 Older Peron warm and wet, global sea levels were 2.5 to 4 meters (8 to 13 feet) higher than the twentieth-century average
3900 5.9 kiloyear event dry and cold.
3500 End of the African humid period, Neolithic Subpluvial in North Africa, expands Sahara Desert
3000 – 0 Neopluvial in North America
3,200–2,900 Piora Oscillation, cold, perhaps not global. Wetter in Europe, drier elsewhere, linked to the domestication of the horse in Central Asia.
2200 4.2-kiloyear event dry, lasted most of the 22nd century BC, linked to the end of the Old Kingdom in Egypt, and the Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia, various archaeological cultures in Persia and China
1800–1500 Middle Bronze Age Cold Epoch, a period of unusually cold climate in the North Atlantic region
Bond Event 2 Possibly triggering the Late Bronze Age collapse
900–300 Iron Age Cold Epoch cold in North Atlantic. Perhaps associated with the Homeric Minimum
250 BC–400 AD Roman Warm Period

Common Era/AD[edit]

See also[edit]