Glacier loss on Kilimanjaro continues unabated

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Title:
Glacier loss on Kilimanjaro continues unabated Authors:
Thompson, L. G.; Brecher, H. H.; Mosley-Thompson, E.; Hardy, D. R.; Mark, B. G. Affiliation:
AA(Byrd Polar Research Center, Ohio State University, 108 Scott Hall, 1090 Carmack Road, Columbus, OH 43210; School of Earth Sciences, Ohio State University, 125 South Oval Mall, Columbus, OH 43210), AB(Byrd Polar Research Center, Ohio State University, 108 Scott Hall, 1090 Carmack Road, Columbus, OH 43210), AC(Byrd Polar Research Center, Ohio State University, 108 Scott Hall, 1090 Carmack Road, Columbus, OH 43210; Department of Geography, Ohio State University, 154 North Oval Mall, Columbus, OH 43210), AD(Department of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts, 236 Hasbrouck, Amherst, MA 01003), AE(Byrd Polar Research Center, Ohio State University, 108 Scott Hall, 1090 Carmack Road, Columbus, OH 43210; Department of Geography, Ohio State University, 154 North Oval Mall, Columbus, OH 43210) Publication:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Volume 106, Issue 47, 2009, pp.19770-19775 Publication Date:
11/2009 Origin:
PNAS DOI:
10.1073/pnas.0906029106 Bibliographic Code:
2009PNAS..10619770T

Abstract

The dramatic loss of Kilimanjaro's ice cover has attracted global attention. The three remaining ice fields on the plateau and the slopes are both shrinking laterally and rapidly thinning. Summit ice cover (areal extent) decreased ≈1% per year from 1912 to 1953 and ≈2.5% per year from 1989 to 2007. Of the ice cover present in 1912, 85% has disappeared and 26% of that present in 2000 is now gone. From 2000 to 2007 thinning (surface lowering) at the summits of the Northern and Southern Ice Fields was ≈1.9 and ≈5.1 m, respectively, which based on ice thicknesses at the summit drill sites in 2000 represents a thinning of ≈3.6% and ≈24%, respectively. Furtwängler Glacier thinned ≈50% at the drill site between 2000 and 2009. Ice volume changes (2000-2007) calculated for two ice fields reveal that nearly equivalent ice volumes are now being lost to thinning and lateral shrinking. The relative importance of different climatological drivers remains an area of active inquiry, yet several points bear consideration. Kilimanjaro's ice loss is contemporaneous with widespread glacier retreat in mid to low latitudes. The Northern Ice Field has persisted at least 11,700 years and survived a widespread drought ≈4,200 years ago that lasted ≈300 years. We present additional evidence that the combination of processes driving the current shrinking and thinning of Kilimanjaro's ice fields is unique within an 11,700-year perspective. If current climatological conditions are sustained, the ice fields atop Kilimanjaro and on its flanks will likely disappear within several decades.
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