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This is called the Milankovitch cycle, brought on by changes in the Earth's orbit. The shape of the Earth's orbit around the sun (eccentricity) varies between an ellipse to a more circular shape.
The earth's axis is tilted relative to the sun at around 23°.
Obliquity: changes in the tilt of the Earth’s rotational axis.
Precession: wobbles in the Earth’s rotational axis.
All IPCC definitions taken from Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Over the last half million years, our climate has experienced long ice ages regularly punctuated by brief warm periods called interglacials.
While this result was predicted two decades ago (Interglacials come along approximately every 100,000 years.
The combined effect of these orbital cycles cause long term changes in the amount of sunlight hitting the earth at different seasons, particularly at high latitudes.
For example, around 18,000 years ago, there was an increase in the amount of sunlight hitting the Southern Hemisphere during the southern spring.
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This lead to retreating Antarctic sea ice and melting glaciers in the Southern Hemisphere.().