Kilimanjaro’s shrinking northern glaciers could disappear completely by 2030, researchers at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union said on Friday.
The highest peak in Africa, Kilimanjaro’s northern glaciers are thought to be 10,000 years old. According to LiveScience, the northern ice field, which contains most of Kilimanjaro’s remaining glacial ice, has lost more than 140 million cubic feet of ice over the past 13 years.
Since 2000, the glaciers have decreased approximately 29 percent in volume and 32 percent in total surface area, according to Pascal Sirguey, a research scientist with the University of Otago in New Zealand.
Last year, the largest remaining ice field split into two pieces, “revealing ancient lava that may not have seen the sun for millennia.”
Credner Glacier accounts for 43 percent of lost ice during the past decade. Sirguey told LiveScience that if Kilimanjaro’s northern glaciers continue to shrink at the same rate that they have been for the past 12 years, Credner Glacier will completely vanish by 2030. The rest of the ice, he says, will last another 30 years from this month.
Sirguey and his fellow researchers tracked the changes in Kilimanjaro’s ice with a digital elevation model created from satellite images.
Over the past decade, NASA has also documented indications of the earth’s changing climate using satellite images. NASA’s GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) Mission measured the amount of ice lost from earth’s glaciers and ice caps from 2003 to 2010 due to atmospheric warming.
The study found that, during that time frame, approximately 4.3 trillion tons of land ice mass was lost, resulting in a 0.5 inch rise in global sea level.
Alisha is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow her on Twitter @childoftheearth.