Story of Holocene wilderness

Primeval wilderness has always been shaped by Earth’s dynamic. Particularly Earth’s climate has always experienced rapid fluctuations. Alternation of rapidly warming periods and long cold periods well illustrate climate variability prior to the period of the current more stable climate. That began after the end of the last glaciation in the period we now call the Holocene.

This stability during this period has been crucial to the development and progress of human civilizations. Current understanding these changes, especially climate conditions, offers valuable insights into our past and future. Studying these patterns helps us understand the dynamics of Earth’s climate and prepares us for the potential changes that lie ahead.

Holocene climate patterns

The Holocene is the current geological epoch, spanning approximately the last 11,700 years. It began after the last major ice age, in time when Europe was still one vast wilderness. That period is marked by a relatively stable and warmer climate compared to previous epochs. This stability was crucial for the dynamic development of vegetation and the subsequent flourishing of human civilizations. 

The Holocene also has witnessed notable climate fluctuations, such as the Holocene Climate Optimum (occurred approximately between 9,000 and 5,000 years ago), the Medieval Warm Period (occurred roughly between 900 and 1300 AD), and the Little Ice Age (that occurred roughly between the 14th and 19th centuries), all of which have impacted natural ecosystems and human societies.

The Holocene began after the last major ice age, in time when Europe was still one vast wilderness

Climate stability in the Holocene

The Holocene climate became stable and warmer, especially compared to the previous geological period of glaciation, which was called the “Pleistocene”. The end of this period named also the Ice Age marked a shift from harsh, glacial conditions to a milder climate. The increased stability of the climate is attributed to the position of the Earth in its orbit, reduced ice cover and changes in atmospheric circulation. These factors have led to milder temperatures and consistent seasonal patterns. This climatic stability was key to the emergence and dynamics of plant communities including forests, and subsequently to human civilizations.

Holocene versus Pleistocene

The climate during the Pleistocene, the period before the Holocene, was much harsher due to frequent and intense glacial cycles. These cycles, driven by changes in Earth’s orbit, caused vast ice sheets to covert not only Northern Europe but vast parts of the Northern Hemisphere. 

The climate was characterized by lower temperatures, significant ice advances and retreats, and fluctuating sea levels. These harsh conditions led to a more challenging environment for life, with ecosystems and species constantly adapting to the extreme and rapidly changing climate. The transition to the warmer, more stable Holocene marked the end of these heavy ice ages.

What can we expect?

Developmental cycles (e.g. temperature changes) continue to influence the Earth’s climate. These cycles, including changes in the Earth’s orbit, the tilt of the Earth’s axis, change the distribution of solar radiation over long periods. Indeed, future ice ages can be expected as part of these natural cycles.

We are currently in an interglacial period with milder climatic conditions. However, as the cycles during Ice Age progressed, they lead to a seriers of new ice ages and causing colder temperatures and advancing ice sheets. Understanding these cycles helped scientists predict long-term climate patterns. However, their role is currently significantly complicated by the current human influence on climate conditions.

Predicting the exact timing of future ice ages within natural cycles is difficult. Current estimates suggest that the next ice age could begin in about 50,000 years. However, this timing may be affected by human-induced climate change, which is currently causing rapid warming. Greenhouse gas emissions can delay or alter the natural course of glacial cycles.

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We are currently in an interglacial period with milder climatic conditions


The Holocene, characterized by a stable and warmer climate, is essential for the development of current nature and advancement of human civilizations. This stability contrasts sharply with the harsh conditions of the earlier period (Pleistocene), which were shaped by intense glacial cycles.

The natural cycles continue to influence Earth’s climate, suggesting that future ice ages are inevitable. While we are currently in a milder interglacial phase, the continued influence of human activities on climate patterns complicates predictions. Understanding these long-term cycles and their interplay with human-induced changes is critical to preparing for future climate change.

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