I have been studying ocean currents and associated energy flows in the eastern Pacific and western Atlantic oceans. I also looked at El Nino cycles.

I also noted when the large glacial periods started 3 million years ago and noticed that these began when what is now Panama formed between North and South America by continental drift effectively separating the Gulf of Mexico from the Pacific Ocean. The ocean currents from the Atlantic and Pacific no longer mixed from then on. However, this article in Scientific American mentions some evidence that the isthmus of Panama actually formed enough to block ocean currents 10 million years ago.

I am not sure on the macroscopic thermodynamics on how this contributed to the start of the Ice Ages but this is the situation. Could be coincidental.

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    $\begingroup$ It would really be great if you could add some time estimates. $\endgroup$ – farrenthorpe Oct 9 '17 at 23:36
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    $\begingroup$ I have no knowledge of what is the current theory of the beginning of ice ages, but I can reason how this could affect. Ocean currents are a large factor balancing the temperature difference between equator and poles. The more restrained the oceans are the less effectively will they be able to form circulations that do this balancing. $\endgroup$ – Communisty Oct 10 '17 at 6:54
  • $\begingroup$ Here's a related article, a bit more recent (2015 vs 2012) but covers the same uncertainty. phys.org/news/… It's fairly obvious how changing ocean currents can trigger an ice age. That's why the Isthmus hypothesis was so neat and tidy and easy to believe and it may still be one of the key factors. But if it did form a few million years earlier, then more study is needed. $\endgroup$ – userLTK Oct 11 '17 at 8:46

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