Glaciology is the study of ice and its effects. Since ice can appear on or in the earth as well as in its seas and other bodies of water and even its atmosphere, the purview of glaciologists is potentially very large. For the most part, however, glaciologists' attention is direction toward great moving masses of ice called glaciers, and the intervals of geologic history when glaciers and related ice masses covered relatively large areas on Earth. These intervals are known as ice ages, the most recent of which ended on the eve of human civilization's beginnings, just 11,000 years ago. The last ice age may not even be over, to judge from the presence of large ice masses on Earth, including the vast ice sheet that covers Antarctica. On the other hand, evidence gathered from the late twentieth century onward indicates the possibility of global warming brought about by human activity.

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