We’ve been hearing dire predictions about the snow capped peak of Kilimanjaro for sometime now, as the snows atop its summit, made famous by Ernest Hemingway, continue to recede at an alarming rate. But a new study, published just this week, now predicts that those snows could be gone completely in as little as twenty years.
According to the study, the glacier atop the mountain, the tallest in Africa, have shrunk by as much as 85% since 1912, with more than a quarter of that shrinking coming since 2000. The scientists publishing the report say this is the first time that the actual amount of ice lost has been accurately measured. The cause for this dramatic change is, as you can imagine, global warming, although changes in cloud cover and precipitation are not ruled out in playing a role either. Examinations of ice core samples, which date back more then 11,000 years, indicate that there has not been a similar period of melting in Kili’s recent geological past.
The effects of the loss of the glacier will be far reaching, as most of the people living around the mountain rely on glacial runoff to provide them with the water that they need to survive. If the snows do indeed disappear forever, climatologists are predicting droughts and major suffering.
While it is clear that the glaciers are indeed retreating, it is a tricky business to put an expiration date on them. There have been reports for several years predicting that they would be gone by 2015 or even 2020, but this study gives them more time than that. Regardless of how much time they do have left however, it is likely that they’ll be gone in our lifetime, and I’m not sure if there is anything we can do about it.
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