I recently acquired some old photos depicting Kilimanjaro from the 1920’s through to the 1960’s. Although the massif that is Kilimanjaro is easily recognisable in shape and size the dramatic decline in the glaciers is so apparent that the mountain is almost unrecognisable to what is was 80 years ago.

The glaciers have existed for around 12,000 years but it is estimated that they have decreased in size by approximately 82% since 1912. If they continue declining at such a rapid rate then they could completely disappear from the African landscape by 2020.

Most people like to blame global warming for the decline in the glaciers, but some scientists beg to differ and believe the reason behind their loss could be far more complex. One hypothesis is the deforestation that is being carried out in the region to free up land for farming and honey production is greatly reducing the surrounding forest, this in turn causes less moisture to be pumped into the atmosphere which produces less cloud cover and precipitation and increase solar radiation and glacial evaporation on Kilimanjaro.

It is not known whether there is enough time to save the glaciers of Kilimanjaro but many scientists are willing to try and all sorts of ideas have been put into the field of play. One suggestion is to cover Kilimanjaro’s ice cap in a large white cover. The cover would act as a protective membrane reflecting solar radiation and preventing evaporation and thus saving what remains of the glaciers.

The effect to mountain tourism if the glaciers disappear is still unknown but it would undoubtedly have an effect to the local economy. Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain on the African continent and is one of the seven summits making it a must for many aspiring mountaineers. Although the disappearance of the glaciers will not go unnoticed, people will still flock to the mountain to trek to the summit and fulfil a dream of standing on the highest point in Africa.

The next ten years will reveal the fate that awaits the remaining equator ice caps and the knock on effects their disappearance will have to Tanzania and the wider world. Ernest Hemingway described the ice caps as, “Wide as the world, great, high, and unbelievably white in the sun.” Let’s hope that the next generation will be able to read this sentence and look to the highest point in Africa and understand what Ernest Hemingway described in his classic, The Snows of Kilimanjaro.

Author's Bio: 

The exhilaration of Climbing Kilimanjaro is an experience that cannot be underestimated. Whether it is for charity or pleasure, the sense of personal achievement is enormous.