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Kilimanjaro’s Ice Cover May Be Another Climate Change Casualty

Kilimanjaro’s Ice Cover May Be Another Climate Change Casualty

In 13 to 24 years Ernest Hemingway’s short story, The Snows of Kilimanjaro may serve as a reminder of what the world has lost due to climate change. The snow-capped volcano in Tanzania might be ice-free within the next two decades, according to a study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal.

U.S.-based researchers Lonnie Thompson and colleagues climbed the 19,331 foot (5,892 meter) peak, drilled deep into glaciers and measured ice fields. Previous studies used aerial photographs to measure the ice’s retreat. The researchers spent seven years measuring Kilimanjaro’s glaciers, and lived on top of it for almost two months.

Called the “roof of Africa,” Kilimanjaro is the continent’s highest peak. Within a seven year period, 2000 to 2007, it lost 26 percent of its ice. The ice sheet in 2007 was 85 percent less than in 1912. The ice decreased one percent a year from 1912 to 1953, but from 1989 to 2007 it decreased 2.5 percent a year. The smaller Furtwangler Glacier decreased by as much as 50 percent between 2000 and 2009. The study blamed the loss of ice on warmer temperatures and dryer weather caused by climate change.

“There is a strong likelihood that the ice fields will disappear within a decade or two if current conditions persist,” said the study. “The climatological conditions currently driving the loss of Kilimanjaro’s ice fields are clearly unique within an 11,700-year perspective.

“The Kilimanjaro glaciers are indicators for a larger-scale process,” Thompson said. “It’s not just Kilimanjaro, it’s every tropical glacier in Africa, in the tropical Andes of South America, it’s the glaciers in New Guinea. We are losing all those glaciers in today’s world.”

“The shrinkage and ultimate disappearance of these glaciers will create tremendous ecological and social problems in the near future,” said Doug Hardy, senior research fellow in the Climate Systems Research Center at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and contributor to the study.

The loss of Kilimanjaro’s ice would cost the east African country economically for it attracts 35,000 to 40,000 visitors a year who spend almost $50 million a year in Tanzania. The overall tourism industry in Tanzania was $1.22 billion last year.

“The loss of the ice fields will have a negative impact on tourism in tropical east Africa,” said Thompson

Time to take action

It may be too late to save the snows of Kilimanjaro, but it is not too late to take action to mitigate climate change. Instead of sinking into proverbial despair, let the government know it is time to pass a climate change bill. Sign the petition “Step Up On Climate, President Obama.” Then, tell your friends and family to sign it. Let’s aim for 10,000 signatures before the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in early December.

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11 comments

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12:00AM PDT on Mar 20, 2013

Thank you.

11:59PM PDT on Mar 19, 2013

Thank you.

11:59PM PDT on Mar 19, 2013

Thank you.

11:58PM PDT on Mar 19, 2013

Thank you.

8:33AM PST on Nov 6, 2009

Christian, you've missed the point of my argument entirely. I was saying that 'stopping' Climate Change and using it as the basis for environmental movements isn't the best approach, because climate change occurs regardless of whether or not we have have a hand in it. If you had read past the first sentence of my argument (which, from the looks of your response you did not) then you may have realized this was the point I'm trying to make. Trust me, I most certainly do NOT believe that we are having any sort of positive effect on the environment as a whole whatsoever. Essentially what I'm saying that the argument is weak, so if we truly want to bring change in humans we must have a stronger argument. My apologies if my earlier post seemed to suggest otherwise.

6:52AM PST on Nov 6, 2009

Sara, you are a tool of large energy corporations.
I have been to glaciers in Alaska, and I have my own photographic record to show evidence that ALL of the glaciers there are receding at a pace that is more rapid than has been previously seen. Glacier National Park will have to be renamed. You are so full of it, and you have no proof of your false claim, whereas I have the weight of the world's science behind man made climate change. You're just wrong, "sorry".

6:48AM PST on Nov 6, 2009

How long will Repubs block and obstruct efforts to combat this very real threat? Catastrophic Climate Change is real and it is caused by CO2, which is largely manmade and correlates one for one with industrial output. We can change how we produce and consume energy and save our planet from destruction, but we can't wait any longer.
Much of the CO2 is coming from heating and cooling our buildings, and that can be radically reduced, and has been, without much in the way of changes to our building codes. Simple changes like that can mean all the difference. Using different building materials and having green buildings and energy from renewable sources doesn't have to be painful or difficult, but we must act quickly. We cannot afford to have these corporate shills continue to lie to us and tell us that the world's scientists are all full of cr@p. It's just not true that global warming is all natural. That's baloney, put out there by energy companies and their paid spokespersons.
Germany gets 17% of it's energy from renewables sources, and is already headed down the right path. We can make products that not only help our environment, but help our economy as well. Green jobs == money. Think about it.

6:31AM PST on Nov 6, 2009

Sorry, but climate change is totally natural. Admittedly we are having a detrimental effect to the environment - I am most certainly not denying that. However, as some have pointed out the 'warming' is not occuring everywhere - and the earth is in the middle of a warming period between to ice ages at the moment, so of course there is going to be some ice loss. Don't worry, a good chunk of the world will be incased in ice again in about 80 000 years, whether we as humans have a hand in it or not. Using 'climate change' as the forefront for the argument that humans are destroying the planet is not really much of an argument at all.

6:17AM PST on Nov 6, 2009

A vast majority of glaciers are disappearing and a few unnamed, unconfirmed ones are supposedly growing and this statistical oddity disproves AGW? Dolf v. needs to take a science course.

5:31AM PST on Nov 6, 2009

Here in my home in blackwood, people "think" the climate warming is a "natural" thing, they are stupid, we see it every at place, the human civilisation has do it - only with our Consum, we can save this planet - vegan living, puplictraffic, energie etc...the most people won' t think about this - This is ignorance
and stupid - what will be with the children???

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