Kilimanjaro’s Shrinking Ice Fields

In this view you can see the Kilimanjaro’s Shrinking Ice Fields, that are as surreal as they are spectacular. Mount Kilimanjaro is a 5,895-meter (19,341-foot) dormant stratovolcano in Tanzania.

The Advanced Land Imager on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 satellite acquired the top image, which shows some of the same ice fields from above on October 26, 2012.

After ascending through multiple ecosystems—including cropland, lush rainforest, alpine desert, and a virtual dead zone near the summit—climbers can find themselves peering down on a thick blanket of clouds below that seems to stretch endlessly in the distance.

But in the immediate foreground, ice dominates the view. Looking north, a shelf-like block of ice with a sharp vertical cliff sits on an otherwise featureless, sand-covered plateau. In the other direction, a second ice field spills off the edge of the plateau, down the mountain’s southern face.

Kimberly Casey, a glaciologist based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, was savoring the views from Kilimanjaro’s summit and caldera when she snapped these panoramic images of Kilimanjaro’s northern (middle) and southern (bottom) ice fields.

Casey was taking part in a September 2012 research expedition to Kilimanjaro to study the ice at the summit. For scale, bright tents that were part of the scientists’ base camp are visible in the lower left of the northern ice field image.

Despite Mount Kilimanjaro’s location in the tropics, the dry and cold air at the top of the mountain has sustained large quantities of ice for more than 10,000 years. At points, ice has completely surrounded the crater. Studies of ice core samples show that Kilimanjaro’s ice has persisted through multiple warm spells, droughts, and periods of abrupt climate change.

NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using ALI data from the NASA EO-1 team. Photos by Kimberly Casey. Caption by Adam Voiland.

source earthobservatory