One of the most significant global climatic events in the Cenozoic was the transition from greenhouse to icehouse conditions in Antarctica. Tectonic evolution of the region and gradual cooling at the end of Eocene led to the first appearance of ice sheets at the Eocene/Oligocene boundary (ca. 34 Ma). Here we report geological record of mountain glaciers that preceded major ice sheet formation in Antarctica. A terrestrial, valley-type tillite up to 65 metres thick was revealed between two basaltic lava sequences in the Eocene– Oligocene Point Thomas Formation at Hervé Cove – Breccia Crag in Admiralty Bay, King George Island, South Shetland Islands. K-Ar dating of the lavas suggests the age of the glaciation at 45–41 Ma (Middle Eocene). It is the oldest Cenozoic record of alpine glaciers in West Antarctica, providing insight into the onset of glaciation of the Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands.
Arctic glaciers depend on supply of moisture, mostly from the Atlantic. The snowline is remarkably high in northeast Siberia, remote from this source. Because of differential solar radiation receipt, local glaciers have a northward−facing tendency throughout the Arctic. This is weaker than in dry mid−latitudes but low sun angles enhance the effects of shading, compensating for the broader range of aspects ( i.e. slope directions) illuminated in summer. Statistics from the World Glacier Inventory and other sources show that mass balance differences between slopes of different aspects give both more glaciers, and lower glaciers, facing the favoured direction: usually North. This is clear, for example, for local glaciers (and for all small glaciers) in central Spitsbergen and in Axel Heiberg Island. Wind effects (drifting snow to leeward slopes) are much less important, except in northwest Europe from Norway to Novaya Zemlya which is under the strong influence of westerly winds, greatest in the Polar and Sub−polar Urals. A thorough analysis is provided of aspect data for local glaciers within and near the Arctic Circle, and of variation in glacier mid−altitude with aspect and position. There is consistency between mean glacier aspect (in terms of numbers) and aspect with lowest glaciers, everywhere except in Wrangel Island.