Natural paradises in danger to be saved: Kilimanjaro



by LORENZO CIOTTI

Natural paradises in danger to be saved: Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro's glaciers are in grave danger: a narrow band of snow adorns the summit of Africa's highest peak, Kilimanjaro, the peak that was once famous for its sheen, now seems to lose its icy snow appeal when global temperatures rise.

It is a stratovolcano formed by three craters: the oldest, Shira, to the west, with an altitude of 3962 meters, the Mawenzi to the east, with an altitude of 5149 meters and, among the first two, Kibo, which is the more recent and still shows signs of activity, in the form of fumaroles.

Between the Kibo and the Mawenzi lies a 3600-hectare platform, called the saddle of the winds, which constitutes the largest highland tundra area in Africa. In 2003, scientists found that a certain amount of magma is located just 400 meters below the crater: it is therefore feared that the volcano could collapse as did Mount St.

Helena in the United States in 1980. Although precise information is not available. about when the last eruption took place, some local legends suggest that there was one about 170 years ago. Almost 85 percent of the ice cover on Kilimanjaro disappeared between October 1912 and June 2011, with coverage decreasing from 11.40 square kilometres (4.40 sq mi) to 1.76 square kilometres (0.68 sq mi).

Between 1912 and 1953, there was about a 1.1 percent average annual loss of ice coverage. The average annual loss for 1953 to 1989 was 1.4 percent, while the loss rate for 1989 to 2007 was 2.5 percent. Of the ice cover still present in 2000, almost 40 percent had disappeared by 2011.

Ice climber Will Gadd noticed differences between his 2014 and 2020 climbs. The glaciers are thinning in addition to losing areal coverage, and do not have active accumulation zones; retreat occurs on all glacier surfaces.

Loss of glacier mass is caused by both melting and sublimation. While the current shrinking and thinning of Kilimanjaro's ice fields appears to be unique within its almost twelve millennium history, it is contemporaneous with widespread glacier retreat in mid-to-low latitudes across the globe.

In 2013 it was estimated that, at the current rate of global warming, most of the ice on Kilimanjaro will disappear by 2040 and it is highly unlikely that any ice body will remain after 2060. A complete disappearance of the ice would be of only negligible importance to the water budget of the area around the mountain.

The forests of Kilimanjaro, far below the ice fields, are essential water reservoirs for the local and regional populations.