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Vital Climate Graphics Africa

Increasing temperatures have led to the melting of mountain glaciers on Africa's major mountains.

An artist's view of the awesome snowcap of Mt. Kilimanjaro, with the peak rising 5895 meters above sea level.

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.