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In the Earth's climate history the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) was the last time period during the last glacial period when ice sheets were at their greatest extension. Vast ice sheets covered much of North America, northern Europe, and Asia. The ice sheets profoundly affected Earth's climate by causing drought, desertification, and a dramatic drop in sea levels. Growth of the ice sheets reached its maximum at about 26,500 years ago. Deglaciation commenced in the Northern Hemisphere at approximately 20 ka and in Antarctica approximately at 14.5 ka, which is consistent with evidence that it was the primary source for an abrupt rise in the sea level at about 14.5 ka.