The Andes were covered in the south by the Patagonian ice cap. The now decaying glaciers of Mount Kenya, Mount Kilimanjaro, and the Ruwenzori Range in east and central Africa were larger.
Glaciers existed in the mountains of Ethiopia and to the west in the Atlas mountains.
This epoch experienced important geographic and climatic changes that affected human societies.
During the preceding Pliocene, continents had continued to drift from possibly as far as 250 km (160 mi) from their present locations to positions only 70 km (43 mi) from their current location.
According to Mark Lynas (through collected data), the Pleistocene's overall climate could be characterized as a continuous El Niño with trade winds in the south Pacific weakening or heading east, warm air rising near Peru, warm water spreading from the west Pacific and the Indian Ocean to the east Pacific, and other El Niño markers.
Scattered domes stretched across Siberia and the Arctic shelf. During the late Upper Paleolithic (Latest Pleistocene) which may have prevented early Paleo-Indians such as the Clovis culture from directly crossing Beringia to reach the Americas.
South America became linked to North America through the Isthmus of Panama, bringing a nearly complete end to South America's distinctive marsupial fauna.
The formation of the isthmus had major consequences on global temperatures, because warm equatorial ocean currents were cut off, and the cold Arctic and Antarctic waters lowered temperatures in the now-isolated Atlantic Ocean.
This may have caused or contributed to the extinction of the Pleistocene megafauna, although it is also possible that the late Pleistocene extinctions were (at least in part) caused by other factors such as disease and overhunting by humans.
Scientists suggest that climate change during the end of the Pleistocene caused the mammoths' habitat to shrink in size, resulting in a drop in population.