I have a short story series, it is set thousands of years in the future during the next ice age. Humanity and their governments reside along the equator and in parts of the Southern Hemisphere.

Brazil, South Africa & Australia being the biggest superpowers in a global government. This is a thousand years or so after wars, famine and food shortages you'd expect with limited resources. Mankind has recovered and advanced enough to carry out archaeology expeditions in the northern hemisphere to document the past and find artifacts.

The reason I bring this up is because, I have an outpost stationed in what used to be St. Louis.

Glaciers run through Oregon, northern Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska and stretch to the East Coast.

How would these massive glaciers built up over thousands of years affect the regions bordering them in terms of climate and weather?

I am curious about the regions bordering the glaciers across the US, but if necessary focus on the outpost in St. Louis.

  • $\begingroup$ You've got a couple of questions and a request for speculation here. Any chance of splitting the questions up into two seperate threads and making the guess-work bit a third question that's answerable with an identifiable single best answer? $\endgroup$ – Agrajag Mar 7 at 20:03
  • $\begingroup$ Done and done, I hope this works better? $\endgroup$ – Nathan Hopp Mar 7 at 20:10
  • $\begingroup$ I think so, yes. :) $\endgroup$ – Agrajag Mar 7 at 20:12
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    $\begingroup$ We are currently still in the Quaternary Glaciation, just in one of the warmer interglacial periods. $\endgroup$ – Sarriesfan Mar 7 at 23:59
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    $\begingroup$ to add to Sarriesfan we are currently in a n ice age and ice age is just a period in earths history when a significant port of the land in covered in ice sheets, thanks to antarctica and greenland we more than qualify, The term you are looking for is glacial period. $\endgroup$ – John Mar 8 at 3:59

The best way to figure out what something would be like, is to look for parallels in the modern-day world. In this case, you're looking for a mid-latitude inland location not too far from a polar ice cap. That's something of a problem here: the edges of both polar icecaps are on coastlines, far from the mid-latitudes. So, I'm going to fake it with a hybrid of Fairbanks and St. Louis, with bit of Thule Air Force Base thrown in for cold.

St. Louis is far from any large bodies of water, so you're going to get wide temperature swings, both day-night and summer-winter. In the summer, you can expect high temperatures above 50F (10C), with overnight lows usually above freezing. Warm spells of up to 80F (25C) won't be unheard-of. In the winter, high temperatures will usually be around 0F (-20C), with lows around -20F (-30C). During the November-February period, temperatures will almost never rise above freezing, and spells of bitter cold hitting as low as -65F (-55C) will be possible.

Between the low temperatures and the inland location, it's going to be dry. Contrary to the popular imagination, you won't get much snow in the winter: the air can't hold much moisture. Most of the precipitation will arrive during summer, and it won't all be rain: it can snow on any day of the year.

The cold winter temperatures mean that you'll get a shallow-lying layer of permafrost. In the spring, snowmelt won't soak into the ground -- it's got nowhere to go. Instead, you'll get mud and small ponds all over the place, with the corresponding swarms of mosquitoes.

The geography of the area makes the Mississippi riverbed a natural drainage channel for meltwater from the glaciers, but the river will be just a shadow of its former self. The river will freeze in the winter, with breakup (and possible ice-dam flooding) in the spring.

Your outpost will need to get most of its food either from imports or from hunting, possibly supplemented with crops grown in greenhouses. The possibility of frost at any time greatly limits the possibility of large-scale outdoor farming.

  • $\begingroup$ "St. Louis is far from any large bodies of water, so you're going to get wide temperature swings" Except that we're positing a glacier, which is made of frozen water and will tend to clamp the temperature swings to the cold side. I would compare this to Eismitte in Greenland rather than try to mix Fairbanks and St. Louis. Eismitte never goes above freezing (or even -3°C/27°F). $\endgroup$ – Brythan Mar 8 at 4:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Brythan I wouldn't think Eismitte, in Greenland, to be a better analog. It's much closer to the ocean than St Louis is. Seems like that would make it wetter in Eismistte than a frozen St Louis would be. And to your other point of the glacier being made of water, yes it is. But, locked in its frozen form it will do little to affect the air's ability to hold heat. That would lead to more dramatic (day/night) temperature swing, much like any other arid or desert climate. $\endgroup$ – Leezard Mar 8 at 20:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Brythan, Eismitte, as the name implies, is square in the middle of the Greenland ice cap. It's going to have a very different climate from a St. Louis that's near the edge of the ice. $\endgroup$ – Mark Mar 8 at 20:48
  • $\begingroup$ I'm curious though, would the presence of glaciers turn the region into a tundra? $\endgroup$ – Nathan Hopp Mar 8 at 21:27
  • $\begingroup$ @NathanHopp, it's going to be similar to current arctic tundra, but cause and effect is the other way around: the cold climate that gives you the permafrost and short growing season also lets the glaciers grow. $\endgroup$ – Mark Mar 8 at 21:34

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