Snows of Kilimanjaro

January 07, 2003


Provided by: Earth Observatory, NASA GSFC
Summary authors & editors: Earth Observatory; Jim Foster

If written today, Ernest Hemingway's short study about a writer contemplating his life as he's lying on the slopes of Africa's highest peak, would likely have a different title. Mt. Kilimanjaro's snow-capped crown (approximately 19,000 feet or 6,129 m) isn't as obvious now as it was earlier in the century. The above image pair of Mt. Kilimanjaro was taken 7-years apart. The upper image is from February 1993 (Landsat-5 satellite), while the bottom image was taken in February of 2000 (Landsat-7 satellite). What's alarming about these images is the rapidity of the disappearance of Kilimanjaro's ice cap. Some scientists think the mountain glaciers could be a thing of the past by the year 2015. The ice cap formed more than 11,000 years ago. Glaciologists believe the ice fields on Kilimanjaro shrank by 80 percent over the past century. In recent decades, about a foot and a half (46 cm) of the summit’s glacial ice has been lost each year as a result of increasing average annual temperatures. Most all tropical glaciers have experienced at least some shrinking during the last 30 years.

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