Professor Thompson and his team are attempting to find answers to all these questions. In January and February 2000 they drilled six ice cores through three of Kibo’s glaciers in order to research the history of the mountain’s climate over the centuries. (Follow this link to read a BBC report of their work). A weather station was also placed on the Northern Icefield to see how the current climate affects the build-up or destruction of glaciers.
Although results are still coming in from Professor Thompson’s work, early indications were not good. In a speech made at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in February 2001, the professor declared that, while he cannot be sure why the ice is melting away so quickly, what is certain is that if the glaciers continue to shrink at current rates, the summit could be completely ice-free by 2015.
What the future holds
Whatever the reasons, if Kilimanjaro is to lose its snowy top, the repercussions would be extremely serious: Kilimanjaro’s glaciers are essential to the survival of the local villages, supplying their drinking water, the water to irrigate their crops and, through hydroelectric production, their power; never mind the blow the loss of the snow-cap would deal to tourism.
And these are just the local consequences. If the scientists are to be believed, what is happening on Kilimanjaro is a microcosm of what could face the entire world in future. Even more worryingly, more and more scientists are now starting to think that this future is probably already upon us.
Further information on global warming and Kilimanjaro
Ohio State University research site
Current Kilimanjaro climate statistics Link to the University of Massachusetts Climate Research Centre
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