MOUNT KILIMANJARO IS a mountain in the African country of Tanzania near the border with Kenya. Kilimanjaro is actually a massif, a mountainous complex with a number of peaks, the highest being Uhuru Peak at 5,895 meters, the highest point of land on the continent of Africa. The massif is considered a strato-volcano containing magma 400 meters below the surface. No eruptions have taken place in the modern era.
Mount Kilimanjaro came into prominence in 2000 when researchers reported that its glaciers and ice fields were fast disappearing. The most prominent explanation for this phenomenon was global warming, which has also been blamed for the loss of comparable ice accumulations on a number of other mountain ranges in the equatorial regions. Studies in the early 2000s by researchers from Ohio State University indicated that the Kilimanjaro ice field began forming over 11,000 years ago and that three extensive droughts occurred before the drought during the 21st century. However, none of these resulted in the complete loss of ice cover. Other factors also contribute to loss of ice cover. Forest cover on Kilimanjaro’s slopes has been severely reduced for agricultural expansion and from forest fires caused from the smoking out of bees from their hives for honey collection. Forest reduction brings about a loss of moisture entering the atmosphere, lower precipitation levels, increased short wave radiation, and hastened glacial evaporation.
The demise of the Kilimanjaro ice sheet is damaging the Tanzanian economy in a number of ways. Tanzania is already one of the poorest counties in the world; 90 percent of its population lives below the established poverty level of $2 per day. The country relies heavily on income from agriculture, which employs more than three-quarters of the workforce. Loss of the ice fields will greatly reduce the amount of runoff for downslope settlements during the dry seasons. Loss of the ice cover also results in the diminishment of hydroelectric generating potential and a curtailment in the supply of water for irrigation. If hydroelectric generation declines, the shortfall in power production will most likely be made up with an increase in the burning of fossil fuels, an increase in greenhouse gasses, and more global warming. Tanzania and other African countries were already under severe development pressure before the demise of the Kilimanjaro ice sheets. Studies have been initiated by the United Nations to find ways in which science, technology, and innovation can be brought to bear on the socioeconomic difficulties in African countries.
Global Warming; Mountains; Tanzania.
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