Climate change: Study: Africa's glaciers are shrinking sharply

According to a study, Africa's few glaciers are disappearing rapidly as a result of the climate crisis - and could have disappeared by the middle of the century.

Climate change: Study: Africa's glaciers are shrinking sharply

According to a study, Africa's few glaciers are disappearing rapidly as a result of the climate crisis - and could have disappeared by the middle of the century. On the almost 6,000 meter high Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the approximately 5,300 meter high Mount Kenya in Kenya and the approximately 5,100 meter high Rwenzori Mountains on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the ice surfaces have increased since the first years of the 21st century alone. The researchers write in the journal “Environmental Research”.

For the study, experts from the universities of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Otago in New Zealand, Massachusetts in the USA and Innsbruck in Austria evaluated high-resolution satellite images. The group has thus closed a gap because there was no data from previous years, said Anne Hinzmann from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. The last measurements were taken in 2005 on the Ruwenzori Mountains, in 2011 on Kilimanjaro and in 2016 on Mount Kenya.

According to the new analysis, it was shown that the largest ice area in Africa on Kilimanjaro had decreased from 11.4 square kilometers in 1900 to 0.98 square kilometers between 2021 and 2022. On Mount Kenya the ice shrank from 1.64 square kilometers in 1899 to 0.07 square kilometers in 2021/2022, in the Rwenzori Mountains from 6.51 square kilometers in 1906 to 0.38 square kilometers in 2021/2022. "Since the glacier areas were first mapped at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, more than 90 percent of their areas have disappeared," explained Hinzmann.

According to the study, the three tropical glacier regions are so high that the retreat of ice there, in contrast to the Alps, for example, cannot be directly attributed to rising temperatures in the areas. However, changes in precipitation play an important role. It was said that the rainy seasons have been drier since the end of the 19th century, so that less ice forms and the glacier retreats. There are also more cloudless days on which sunshine can melt the ice even when the temperature is below zero.

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