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|See also: Lake Natron, Mahale Mountains National Park|
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Position of center of photo (Lat/Long): [-3.06619/37.35997]
Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania) is a dormant stratovolcano and the highest mountain in Africa. Kibo Summit (5,893 m) at the top of Kilimanjaro is one of the few peaks in Africa to retain glaciers. The photograph, taken from the International Space Station in late June 2004, shows large glacier fields (blue-white, with defined edges) on the northwestern and southern slopes of the peak. In this scene, a light layer of snow brightens the dark brown terrain around the glaciers.
Scientists use ice cores, an automated weather station, computer modeling, and images like these as tools to learn about the past and present activity of Kilimanjaro’s receding glaciers. One atmospheric scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found clues that link reduced cloud cover to post-1880 decreased water levels in East African lakes. Lake evaporation indicates a decrease in both precipitation and cloudiness around Kilimanjaro. These two images illustrate the changes over time in snow cover at the summit as well as the current extent of the glaciers themselves. Light brown outwash channels from the northwestern flank icefield are particularly evident in the photograph. While clear conditions over Kilimanjaro allow for the collection of spectacular images like these, the lack of cloud cover may be one cause for the glaciers’ retreat. The increased sunlight facilitates faster evaporation and less precipitation - thus, the land surface absorbs more incoming sunlight and, as it warms, the ice and snow melts at an accelerated pace.
Most scientists agree that the glaciers of Mt. Kilimanjaro will be gone by the year 2020, but there is less agreement as to why they are now receding. Climatologists are now studying current weather trends, environmental changes from the late 1800s, and historical records of the mountain climate compared with longer-term climate records at lower elevations. A correct interpretation of the ice core data may help provide an explanation for this glacial recession. The loss of Kilimanjaro’s permanent ice fields will have both climatological and hydrological implications for local populations who depend on access to melt water from the ice fields as a source of fresh water during dry seasons and monsoon failures.
|Source of material: NASA|
Further information: WikiPedia article on Mount Kilimanjaro