Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Kilimanjaro icefield disappearing

A combination of recent aerial photograph interpretation and ground drilling (in 2000) has revealed the full extent of glacier retreat on the northern and southern summit ice fields of Kilimanjaro. The areal extent of ice decreased 2.5% per annum from 1989 to 2007 and thinning (lowering of the ice surface) has varied from 1.9 to 5.1m. At one locality, thinning represents 50% of the glacier thickness. The Kilimanjaro ice fields have so far survived 11,700 years since retreat of the last major ice sheet, this despite a 300-year drought c.4,200 years ago. This suggests a lack of precipitation is not the only driver for the contemporary ice retreat observed, but that observed warmer near-surface conditions are pivotal. Current rates of melting indicate that there will be no ice left on Kilimanjaro within a matter of decades.

Image and content from: Thompson, L. G., Brechera, H. H., Mosley-Thompson, E., Hardyd, D. R. and Mark, B. G. (2009).
Glacier loss on Kilimanjaro continues unabated. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Early Edition), 1-6. Available online at http://tiny.cc/Miub0.