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4.2 Glaciers
There is now ample evidence to support a major retreat of most mountain glaciers during the last 100 years in response to widespread increases in temperature. In recent decades, the rate of glacial recession has increased tremendously. Mountain glaciers (IPCC) There are some exceptions - the higher situated parts of some glaciers may receive more precipitation due to global warming. In parts of the Antarctic there is therefore more snow than usual. There may also be more snow on the highest peaks on Greenland glaciers. However, since the lower parts melt or fall into the sea at an increasing pace, the net effect is clearly that the glaciers of the world are retreating

  1. Mountain glaciers supply moisture to mountain forests during the dry and warm seasons.
    With retreating mountain glaciers, the risk of forest fires increases, with a subsequent reduction of forested areas.


    The white cap of Kilimanjaro varies in size over the year, and may grow and shrink at intervals depending on solar influx, precipitation and other factors.
    But since 1912, there is clear evidence that the glaciers have shrunk consistently and dramatically.
    At the February 2001 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), researchers reported dramatic changes in the volume of ice capping the Kibo summit of Kilimanjaro.
    An estimated 82 % of the icecap that crowned the mountain when it was first thoroughly surveyed in 1912 is now gone, and the ice is thinning as well - by as much as a meter in one area. According to some projections, if recession continues at the present rate, the majority of the glaciers on Kilimanjaro could vanish in the next 15 years.

    The main impact of regional warming is most likely on the forest belt.
    Regional warming has increased the vulnerability of the forest to fires.
    And fire occurrences are increasing on Kilimanjaro.
    Over one century, the forest line went down up to 500 metres in some areas.

    The disappearing glaciers on Mt Kilimanjaro are among the few undisputed signs of global warming from Africa (IPCC SPM 2001).
    Other glaciers in Africa (Ruwenzori in Uganda and Mt Kenya) are also under similar threats. The impacts on river flows and on tourism are likely to be significant.

    An artist's view of the awesome snowcap of Mt. Kilimanjaro, with the peak rising 5895 meters above sea level (UNEP/GRID-Arendal graphic)



  1. Smaller glaciers and diminishing forests lead to the drying up of rivers downstream during the dry seasons.
    Precipitation will more often come as rain during the winter and wash away at once instead of being stored as snow and then melt in the dry summer season.
  1. Diminishing forests also entail less moisture feeding the mountain glaciers, thereby contributing to further diminishing the glacier.



    Graphic: UNEP/GRID-Arendal
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The Greenhouse effect, Climate Change and the road to sustainability
1. 1 Greenhouse effect
2. 2 Science
3. 3 Mitigation
4. 4 Impacts
5. 5 Solutions?