Post by The Phantom Piper
According to Kaser et al ( 2004, Int'l J of Climatology) the shrinking of
the Kilimanjaro glacer is not due to warming but the peculiar geography of
the mountain and reduced moisture at mid-troposphere.
And here we go yet again.
According to a new study led by Professor Lonnie Thompson, from Ohio State
University and pubished in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy
of Sciences a couple of weeks ago the vanishing snow was "most likely due to
global warming" though they did add that: "..changes in cloudiness and
precipitation may have also played a smaller, less
important role, especially in recent decades.."
I can't find the original research papers online but below are two
reasonable summations of it from respected newspapers.
"...THE snows capping Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa's tallest peak, are shrinking
rapidly and could vanish altogether in 20 years, most likely due to global
warming, a US study said.
The ice sheet that capped Kilimanjaro in 1912 was 85 per cent smaller by
2007, and since 2000 the existing ice sheet has shrunk by 26 per cent, the
The findings point to the rise in global temperatures as the most likely
cause of the ice loss.
Changes in cloudiness and precipitation may have also played a smaller, less
important role, especially in recent decades, they added.
"This is the first time researchers have calculated the volume of ice lost
from the mountain's ice fields,'' study co-author Lonnie Thompson said.
Mr Thompson is the professor of Earth Sciences at Ohio State University.
"If you look at the percentage of volume lost since 2000 versus the
percentage of area lost as the ice fields shrink, the numbers are very
close,'' he said in the study published in the journal Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences.
While the yearly loss of the mountain glaciers was most apparent from the
retreat of their margins, Mr Thompson said an equally troubling effect was
the thinning of the ice fields from the surface.
The summits of both the Northern and Southern Ice Fields atop Kilimanjaro
have thinned by 1.9m) and 5.1m respectively.
The smaller Furtwangler Glacier, which was melting and water-saturated in
2000 when it was drilled, has thinned as much as 50 per cent between 2000
"It has lost half of its thickness,'' Mr Thompson said. "In the future,
there will be a year when Furtwangler is present and by the next year, it
will have disappeared.
"The whole thing will be gone.''
The scientists said they found no evidence of sustained melting anywhere
else in the ice core samples they extracted, which date back 11,700 years.
They said their findings show that current climate conditions over Mt
Kilimanjaro were unique over the last 11 millennia...."
Just for a bit of balance here's another reference to the same report from a
Tanzanian source which includes some extra detail:
"...It is not -- as some climate experts had been saying -- the result of
local issues such as the cutting down of forests and greater agricultural
production at the base of the mountain.
Scientists now believe that all the snow at the top of the mountain will be
gone within two decades.
They say that snow at the top of Mount Kenya could also be about to
The report says that since 1912, 85 per cent of Mount Kilimanajro's glacier
has disappeared and that 26 per cent has gone since 2000 alone.
The primary cause of the melting is rising global temperatures, although
scientists acknowledge that changes in cloudiness and snowfall may also play
They also point out that even periods of intense drought, including one
which lasted 300 years, did not cause the present degree of melting.
The study is based primarily on photographs taken over the past 100 years.
They show that the 12 sq km of ice coverage in 1912 has been reduced to less
than two square kilometres by 2007.
However, the scientists have also drilled down to the rock beneath the ice
and extracted samples showing the pattern of freezing and melting over the
past 12,000 years.
This proved that the most extensive melting had taken place in the past 40
Scientists say that the melting of Mount Kilimanjaro is part of a trend of
glacial retreat across Africa.
They add that melting is also occurring on Mount Kenya and in the Rwenzori
mountains on the western side of Uganda.
The melting could be devastating for local people and wildlife, which depend
on its runoff waters.
Britain's Met Office has predicted that glacial retreats worldwide could
lead to a 20 per cent fall in global agricultural productivity.
So I hope that helps to reduce another little bit of confusion for you