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Mount Kilimanjaro glaciers nowhere near extinction

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Mount Kilimanjaro glaciers nowhere near extinction
Photo credit:Adam Ihucha, special eTN

By Adam Ihucha, special eTN | Apr 06, 2014

The legendary glaciers, one of key tourists ecstasy, on Tanzania’s majestic Kilimanjaro mountain, will not melt anytime soon after all, as it was earlier predicted.

America’s renowned climatologist, professor Lonnie Thompson in 2002 projected that the snow on the summit of Africa’s highest mountain would completely disappear between 2015 and 2020, thanks to global warming.

But 12 years down the lane now, local ecologists who have been monitoring the trend say the ice, in fact, remains steady and it is nowhere near extinction.

“There are ongoing several studies, but preliminary findings show that the ice is nowhere near melting,” said Mount Kilimanjaro National Park (KINAPA)’s Ecologist, Imani Kikoti.

Mr Kikoti hints that sustainable rainfalls supply on Mount Kilimanjaro in recent years could be a factor behind the snow resilient.

“Much as we agree that the snow has declined over centuries, but we are comfortable that its total melt will not happen in the near future,” he stressed.

Sometimes in 2006, KINAPA installed three state-of-the-art automatic weather stations on mountain key areas of Shira 2, Mweka and Kibo huts to collect accurate data on weather trends.

Though scientifically, it takes up to 30 years to conclude on whether rainfalls are on increase or otherwise, but Mr Kikoti says the data are encouraging.

Victor Manyanga, a tour guide with Congema tours and safaris with 13 years experience to lead tourists to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro says that the glacier is still plenty.

“With the current rate of glaciers melting, if any, I don’t see the ice vanishing say in twenty or thirty years to come. For naked eyes you cant tell if there’s any changes on the ice quantity from what we’ve seen ten years ago” Mr Manyanga noted.

He believes that the massive tree planting around the mount Kilimanjaro could have been mitigated the ripple effects of the global warming.

Alarmed by the Prof. Thompson study, way back in 2006, Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete imposed a total ban on tree harvesting in Kilimanjaro region in a move aimed to halt catastrophic environmental degradation, including melting of ice on Mount Kilimanjaro.

As a result of the measures, the forest cover on the mount Kilimanjaro is slowly, but surely becoming thick.

Experts say the forests on Kilimanjaro's lower slopes absorb moisture from the cloud hovering near the peak, and in turn nourish flora and fauna below
.
The loss of snows on the 19,330-foot (5,892-meter) peak, which have existed for about 11,700 years, could have disastrous effects on the Tanzanian economy.

Eva Mallya, one of KINAPA’s tourism wardens says that Kilimanjaro’s glaciers have fascinated millions of explorers and scientists for centuries, leaving behind multi-million-dollars.

Indeed, American tourist, Mr Kelvin Hurley says ice-capped summit is the most allure for long haul tourists.
Acting Chief Executive Secretary for Tanzania Association of tour operators, Sirili Akko cheered over the news, saying it is a sigh of relief for tour operators who were worried.

The so-called Roof of Africa yields over Tsh 80billion ($50 million) annually, ahead of Ngorongoro Crater which generates Tsh 53 billion ($33.13 million) and Serengeti National Park which garners Tsh 45 billion ($28.13 million).

All these tourism features are located in the Northern Circuit, which generates a large chunk of the $1.88 billion generated from tourism industry per annum.

Prof. Thompson verdict stunned millions of people all over the world whose lifetime dreams are to climb Mount Kilimanjaro to see the only permanent ice-capped summit near equator.

Described as ‘world’s highest free-standing mountain,’ Mt Kilimanjaro, is located just 200 miles south of the equator, rising more than three miles above the dry plains of northern Tanzania.

The Mountain comprises three separate volcanoes. The tallest of the three, Kibo, stretches 19,340 feet above sea level and wears a crown of glaciers.

When German geographer Hans Meyer made the first documented ascent of the peak in 1889, the glaciers dominated Kibo’s crest.

Today, they cover less than 1 square mile, about a tenth the area they covered in Meyer’s time. Some glaciologists predict they will disappear entirely in the next 10 to 15 years, and Thompson says it could even happen sooner.
In 2002, Thompson and 10 of his colleagues published an article in the journal Science. The paper confirmed what many already knew: that Kilimanjaro’s famous cap of glacial ice is shrinking rapidly, with nearly 80 percent having disappeared between 1912 and 2000.

What stunned readers, as well as the Tanzanian government, was that the article gave the glaciers an expiration date.

Based on six ice cores drilled to bedrock and a comparison of aerial photos of the summit dating back to the early 20th century, Thompson and his colleagues concluded “the disappearance of Kilimanjaro’s ice fields, expected between 2015 and 2020, will be unprecedented for the Holocene.”

In other words, not since the birth of the glaciers almost 12 millennia ago have the glaciers been in danger of disappearing — until the 21 century.



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