Glacial ice atop Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania continues to melt at an accelerated rate, shrinking 26 percent since 2000, and about 85 percent since 1912, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study’s lead author, Ohio State University glaciologist Lonnie G. Thompson, said melting of this level has not occurred on Kilimanjaro in 11,700 years. The study was based on aerial photographs and examination of long stakes of the ice core collected nine years ago.
Mount KilimanjaroWhen those samples were extracted in 2000, Thompson found high volumes of bubbles in the upper regions — evidence that the ice had been melted and refrozen in recent years. There was no such evidence from deeper levels of the ice core. Georg Kaser, of Austria’s Institute for Geography of the University of Innsbruck, said the ice samples were only a few hundred years old, so no such conclusion could be reached. In fact, he said, the recent melting is more likely the result of lower moisture levels than a warmer climate. But Thompson noted the Kilimanjaro melting seems to mirror trends elsewhere in the world, including rapid ice-field melting in South America, Indonesia and the Himalayas. “It’s when you put those together,” he said, “that the evidence becomes very compelling.”