Skip to Content

UArizona paleo climatologist releases most accurate estimate to date of global temperatures during last Ice Age

Remaining Ad Time Ad - 00:00

TUCSON (KVOA) - Dr. Jessica Tierney has been working for four years to get an accurate assessment of what the climate was like in Southern Arizona 20,000 years ago to predict potential future changes.

She found that average temperatures were up to 30 degrees cooler in Southern Arizona than they are today.

"It was so much colder. There weren't Sonoran Desert plants hanging out around Tucson," Tierney said. " Instead, Tucson would have been a woodland with junipers and oaks."

Tierney says these plants never completely went away. If you visit Mout Lemmon, you can see the descendants of those plants still alive today.

One thing that has changed almost entirely is the animal life. For example, the megafauna of the time are all completely gone. 

Dr. Ben Wilder is the Director at the Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill and he has been studying the fossil record in our area.

Dr. Wilder says that mammoths, wolves, bison and other giant mammals use to live here.

"Three different species of what we consider mammoths or mastodons, relatives of the elephants, so giant creatures," Wilder said. "You had giant ground slots similar to ones we see today but just five times bigger."

Unlike the 2020 monsoon, we also saw rain happening frequently in Arizona.

"In wintertime when storms come off the Pacific, the ice sheets are blocking them from going northward," Tierney said. "Instead, they track farther south and they tracked right into Arizona."

Author Profile Photo

Daniel McFarland

Skip to content