The dinosaurs never saw snow or ice, the planet had not cooled during their existence. Their fate was sealed when a rogue space rock the size of a city struck Earth 66 million years ago, near what is now the city of Chicxulub on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. The dinosaurs were wiped out and from that point on the earth cooled. For the first time since the earth formed, the earth became gradually mostly glaciated .
Image of post dinosaur glacial maximum (artist’s impression)
Ice ages have had patterns of intermittent warm periods and are called “interglacials”. In the terminology of glaciology, ice age implies the presence of extensive ice sheets in both northern and southern hemispheres. By this definition, we are in an interglacial period—the Holocene—of the ice age. The ice age began 2.6 million years ago at the start of the Pleistocene epoch, because the Greenland, Arctic, and Antarctic ice sheets still exist.
Glaciers have played their part in our human history, and now many are retreating at a rapid rate, which causes many worrying concerns. There is a Swiss organisation collecting data from worldwide volunteer reporters of glacial retreat, at http://wgms.ch/products_fog_maps/
Image of glaciers in Kenya, Africa
Glaciers grow and retreat, and as they change, so does the land around them. People who live near glaciers often depend on annual melt to irrigate their farmland. One example are the people of Peru who gained skills in irrigating their mostly arid landscape over 5000 years ago. They developed an agriculture which fed the population who dug out terraces which were irrigated on higher levels. Then if flooding occurred it did not reach these heights.
By the 15th and 16th centuries, the Inca Empire boasted an advanced irrigation systems, supplying water to 700,000 hectares of diverse crops in the fertile coastal zone.
In South America there are 25,500 square kilometers (9,846 square miles) of glaciers.
In Peru :
The Pastoruri glacier is a cirque glacier, located in the southern part of the Cordillera Blanca, part of the Andes mountain range, in Northern Peru in the Ancash region.
Qori Kalis Glacier
The Qori Kalis Glacier is a tropical glacier located in the Cordillera Oriental section of the Andes mountains of Peru. This and the Pastoruri are among the few tropical glaciers left in the world, and Qori Kalis Glacier is the main outlet of the Quelccaya Ice Cap.
Serious and fast retreat of glaciers in Peru is causing a burst of benefits to farmland by feeding water into otherwise difficult to irrigate areas, but this will not last long before many agricultural lands will be flooded and transformed by the movement of water.
Glaciers are most commonly found above snow line: regions of high snowfall in winter, and cool temperatures in summer. This condition allows more snow to accumulate on the glacier in the winter than will melt from it in the summer. This is why most glaciers are found either in mountainous areas or the polar regions. However, snow line occurs at different altitudes: in Washington State the snow line is around 1,600 meters (5,500 feet),
Image of Washington State glacier
while in Africa it is over 5,100 meters (16,732 feet), and in Antarctica it is at sea level. The amount of snowfall a glacier receives is very important to its survival, which is why some cold regions, like Siberia, have almost no glaciation—there is not enough snowfall.
There are many glaciers in Greenland (see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_glaciers_in_Greenland) These isolated glaciers and small ice caps cover between 76,000 and 100,000 square kilometres (29,000 and 39,000 sq mi) around the periphery of the ice sheet which is Greenland.
Humans are thought to have arrived in Greenland, possibly from Ellesmere Island, around 3000–2500 BCE. Other researchers believe the first humans in Greenland were members of the Saqqaq culture who migrated to western Greenland from Northern Canada around 2500 BCE. Saqqaq people are unrelated to contemporary Greenlandic Inuit people. They survived until 800 BCE.
Around 1000 BCE, people from the Dorset culture settled in Greenland. The Dorset flourished in Greenland from 600 BCE to 200 CE.
An image of an Inuk from Greenland
Image of Cape Dorset, Inuit sled
The Thule people began colonizing Greenland from the northwest about 900.
The Inuit (pronounced /ˈɪnu.ɪt/ or /ˈɪnju.ɪt/; Inuktitut: ᐃᓄᐃᑦ, “the people”) are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions of Greenland, Canada and Alaska. Inuit is a plural noun; the singular is Inuk. The Inuit languages are part of the Eskimo-Aleut family. Inuit Sign Language is a critically endangered language isolate spoken in Nunavut.
Map of distribution of Inuit dialects
Related ethnic groups are the Aleut and Yupik peoples.
In the United States and Canada, the term “Eskimo” was commonly used to describe the Inuit and Alaska’s Yupik and Iñupiat peoples. However, “Inuit” is not accepted as a term for the Yupik, and “Eskimo” is the only term that includes Yupik, Iñupiat and Inuit. The aboriginal peoples in Canada and Greenlandic Inuit view “Eskimo” as pejorative, and “Inuit” is more commonly used in self-reference for these groups. In Canada, sections 25 and 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982 classified the Inuit as a distinctive group of Aboriginal Canadians who are not included under either the First Nations or the Métis.
Image of Alaskan Inuk (labelled ‘eskimo’ ) 1916
The Inuit live throughout most of Northern Canada in the territory of Nunavut, Nunavik in the northern third of Quebec, Nunatsiavut and NunatuKavut in Labrador, and in various parts of the Northwest Territories, particularly around the Arctic Ocean. These areas are known in Inuktitut as the “Inuit Nunangat”.
In the United States, the Iñupiat live primarily on the Alaska North Slope and on Little Diomede Island. The Greenlandic Inuit are descendants of indigenous migrations from Canada. They are citizens of Denmark, although not of the European Union.
The Inuit have historically hunted and gathered food, including lots of large sea mammals like whales and seals. This means their diet has been high in meat and fat. Over thousands of years, many people living in arctic areas have developed the ability to turn these foods into a type of fat that lets them burn calories more quickly and generate more body heat. This helps them keep warm from the inside in sub-zero temperatures.
Map of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference.
Frozen remains of a Saqqaq dubbed “Inuk” were found in western Greenland (Qeqertarsuaq) and have been DNA sequenced. He had brown eyes, black hair, and shovel-shaped teeth. It has been determined that he lived about 4000 years ago, and was related to native populations in northeastern Siberia. The Saqqaq people are not the ancestors of contemporary Kalaallit people, but instead are related to modern Chukchi and Koryak peoples. It is not known whether they crossed in boats or over ice.
Image of Alaskan Inuk woman, 1907
In January 2018, journals and newspapers reported that geneticists had investigated the DNA of two prehistoric human children found at a location of a big game camp at Upward Sun River in central Alaska. The tests on the age of these remains suggest they are 11,500 years old. The remains were in such good condition that geneticists were able to extract DNA from one of them, a female. They compared the sample with the genes of people from around the world.
The findings also suggest Alaska was likely populated 25,000 years ago, 10,000 years earlier than the time of arrival suggested by many archaeologists. This was the late Pleistocene era.
“It represents the oldest linage of Native Americans so far discovered,” said Professor Eske Willerslev, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Cambridge who co-authored the study documenting the findings.
“It’s the fact that this population is older than all other known Native American groups that makes it very important in addressing how the Americas were first populated,” he wrote in the study, published by the journal Nature.
They conclude that the ancestors of these infants started out in East Asia about 35,000 years ago. As they traveled east, they became genetically isolated from other Asians. At some point during the last ice age they crossed a frozen land bridge from Siberia to Alaska called “Beringia.”
Dr Ben E. Potter says during this great migration, either before or after they crossed the land bridge, this group (which the researchers call the founding population for all Native Americans) split again, into two populations. Scientists had suspected this and surmised that one group stayed put in and around Beringia. They call them Ancient Beringians.
Currently, we define Northeast Asia or East Asia as the eastern subregion of the Asian continent, which can be defined in either geographical or pan-ethno-cultural terms. Geographically and geopolitically, it includes China (including Hong Kong and Macau), Japan, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, and Taiwan; it covers about 12,000,000 km2 (4,600,000 sq mi), or about 28% of the Asian continent.
The study also showed that after 11.5 ka, some of the northern Native American populations received gene flow from a Siberian population most closely related to Koryaks (Koryaks are an indigenous people of the Russian Far East, who live immediately north of the Kamchatka Peninsula in Kamchatka Krai and inhabit the coastlands of the Bering Sea).
The Kamchatka Peninsula (Russian: полуо́стров Камча́тка, Poluostrov Kamchatka, IPA: [pəlʊˈostrəf kɐmˈt͡ɕætkə]) is a 1,250-kilometre-long (780 mi) peninsula in the Russian Far East, with an area of about 270,000 km2 (100,000 sq mi). The Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Okhotsk make up the peninsula’s eastern and western coastlines, respectively. Immediately offshore along the Pacific coast of the peninsula runs the 10,500-metre (34,400-ft) deep Kuril–Kamchatka Trench.
Map showing Kamchatka Peninsula in the far east of Russia. The pink area is the Kamchatka Krai which includes some of the mainland to the north.
The Bering Sea is separated from the Gulf of Alaska by the Alaska Peninsula. It covers over 2,000,000 square kilometers (770,000 sq mi) and is bordered on the east and northeast by Alaska, on the west by Russian Far East and the Kamchatka Peninsula, on the south by the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands and on the far north by the Bering Strait, which connects the Bering Sea to the Arctic Ocean’s Chukchi Sea. Bristol Bay is the portion of the Bering Sea which separates the Alaska Peninsula from mainland Alaska. The Bering Sea is named for Vitus Bering, a Danish navigator in Russian service, who in 1728 was the first European to systematically explore it, sailing from the Pacific Ocean northward to the Arctic Ocean.
Understanding the period when the woolly mammoth and humans roamed the northern hemisphere, teaches us more about the climate and environment in which both moved.
Placing the habitat of the woolly mammoth is known as “mammoth steppe” or “tundra steppe”. This environment stretched across northern Asia, many parts of Europe, and the northern part of North America during the last ice age. It was similar to the grassy steppes of modern Russia, but the flora was more diverse, abundant, and grew faster. Grasses, sedges, shrubs, and herbaceous plants were present, and scattered trees were mainly found in southern regions. This habitat was not dominated by ice and snow, as is popularly believed, since these regions are thought to have been high-pressure areas at the time. The habitat of the woolly mammoth also supported other grazing herbivores such as the woolly rhinoceros, wild horses and bison. A 2014 study concluded that forbs (a group of herbaceous plants) were more important in the steppe-tundra than previously acknowledged, and that it was a primary food source for the ice-age megafauna.
Finding preserved carcasses of the woolly mammoth has occurred over recent years. The environment where they flourished during the Pleistocene epoch, gives us an idea of the location of then migrating hunter/gatherers, some of the ancestors of the Native American population.
“We now have an enormous extension of the space that was inhabited at 45,000 years ago,” said Vladimir Pitulko, a senior research scientist at the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Paleolithic human remains are rarely found in the Eurasian Arctic. But all expectations were overturned in 2012, when a team found the carcass of an “exceptionally complete” woolly mammoth on the eastern shore of Yenisei Bay, located in the central Siberian Arctic, the researchers wrote in the study:
“The mammoth was nicknamed “Zhenya.” The final resting place of woolly mammoths was Wrangel Island in the Arctic. Although, most of the woolly mammoth population died out by 10,000 years ago, a small population of 500-1000 woolly mammoths lived on Wrangel Island until 1650 BC. That’s only about 4,000 years ago!”
Pitulko has so been studying bones since 1989 found in the Siberian Arctic. He has now pieced together the point when humans bred dogs for specific purposes, and that was around 9000 years ago.
Scientists hypothesize that when the Earth began warming it led to the wide availability of smaller prey, like reindeer, which replaced large creatures, like mammoths. Unlike mammoths, reindeer were attainable for people—especially with the help of dogs to follow and help hunt. “Before then, there was no real reason to have a dog. We turned to them when we really needed them,” Pitulko says.
Since, the human-dog relationship has evolved humans have initially bred them from wolves to dogs which assist the hunter. Over time, a bond has also grown between humans and dogs which has led to a close relationship and even mutual dependency. Arguably, the most important job dogs have historically had and continue to excel in is friendship. Our ancestors knew a friend when they saw one.
Across to Alaskan Glaciers
Since the 1990s, the retreat of glaciers in Alaska has made a disproportionally large contribution to global sea-level rise. The USGS reports that the state’s glaciers are losing 75 billion tons of ice annually, equal to the amount of water needed to fill Yankee Stadium 150,000 times each year.
During that time, the Gulkana Glacier has steadily diminished due to significantly warmer summers in interior Alaska and a relatively unchanged level of snowfall. Gulkana drains west into the Yukon River.
Meanwhile, the Wolverine Glacier, which is also shrinking, has experienced slightly cooler summers and more variability in winter temperatures. That glacier is a coastal system that flows into the Gulf of Alaska.
From the point of view of human archaeology, the last glacial period falls in the Paleolithic and early Mesolithic periods. When the glaciation event started, Homo sapiens was confined to lower latitudes and used tools comparable to those used by Neanderthals in western and central Eurasia and by Homo erectus in Asia. Near the end of the event, Homo sapiens invaded Eurasia and Australia. Archaeological and genetic data suggest that the source populations of Paleolithic humans survived the last glacial period in sparsely wooded areas and dispersed through areas of high primary productivity while avoiding dense forest cover. The retreat of the glaciers 15,000 years ago allowed groups of humans from Asia to migrate to the Americas.
Current studies show ancestors of Native Americans were not Palaeo-Eskimos, Inuits or Kets. It is shown that Native American gene flow into Inuits was through northern and not southern Native American groups. Further, the findings suggest that the far-northern North American presence of northern Native Americans is from a back migration that replaced or absorbed the initial founding population of Ancient Beringians.
The ocean is a complex and continuous body of water that covers two-thirds of our planet. Melting land and sea ice affect many of the properties that drive the ocean’s chemical, physical and biological processes. We humans have interfered with the delicate balance of the ecosystem.
As small islands in the Pacific seem to be losing land to the ocean at a rapid rate, the population know this process is accelerated because of the Anthropocene impact. They want redress. They seek a legal process to demand compensation for the crime of ecocide which has befallen their beautiful islands. An effort is currently being led by Polly Higgins. She has set up MissionLifeForce.org (https://mission lifeforce.org) to generate like minded legal representation to begin this process of asserting such a crime has been committed.
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