Tag Archives: Lonnie Thompson

Mount Kilimanjaro’s snow cap disappearing – Alarmists disagree over Global Warming’s involvement

The blame everything on Global Warming crowd is back.  The latest target is Mount Kilimanjaro.

According to scientists, Kilimanjaro has lost 85% of its snow cap since 1912 and has shrunk by 26% since 2000.

Of course scientists say the most likely culprit – Global Warming.

“The findings point to the rise in global temperatures as the most likely cause of the ice loss. Changes in cloudiness and precipitation may have also played a smaller, less role, especially in recent decades, they added”

Let’s first point out that in the mid 1970’s, the concern was that we were heading into another ice age.  Global cooling was highly discussed in the mainstream media including in Newsweek as well as the television program In Search Of.

While the earth was cooling, we must note that the snow caps were still shrinking on Kilimanjaro.

Before discussing the conflicting reports, let’s begin with the November, 2009 articles:

“The snows capping Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest peak, are shrinking rapidly and could vanish altogether in 20 years, most likely due to global warming, a US study published Monday said.”

One of the study’s producers was Ohio State University earth sciences professor, Lonnie Thompson.

“The fact that so many glaciers throughout the tropics and subtropics are showing similar responses suggests an underlying common cause,” Thompson said in a statement. “The increase of Earth’s near surface temperatures, coupled with even greater increases in the mid- to upper-tropical troposphere, as documented in recent decades, would at least partially explain” the observations.

Changes in cloudiness and snowfall may also be involved, though they appear less important, according to the study.

According to this study Kilimanjaro could be ice-free as early as 2022.

Clearly the ice has been thinning for decades, this study compared photographs from 1912 and 1953 as well as satellite images from 1976 and 1989.

A study comparing new measurements with those taken in 2000 show that a layer of Kilimanjaro ice between six and 17 feet thick has vanished since then.

What about the earlier photographs and satellite images?

Thompson cited five surveys of Kilimanjaro, from 1912, 1953, 1976, 1989 and 2000. From 1912 to 1953, global temperature rose 0.74ºF. Most scientists think this warming had mainly to do with the sun, and little from human activity, as the bulk of human greenhouse gas emissions took place in the second half of the last century, not the first.

Kilimanjaro’s glaciers lost 45 percent of their real extent in that era of non-human warming. If the glaciers had continued on their merry way at the pace established in that period, they would be gone by now.

This data was provided by Patrick Michaels from the Cato Institute.  Michaels points out that 21 percent of the coverage was reduced between 1953 and 1976.  This was during the period of global cooling.   According to Michaels:

Ohio State could have accurately written the following hype at that time: “Kilimanjaro’s glaciers will completely disappear by 2015 if this cooling trend continues”.

Interestingly, the slowest rate of decline occurred after 1976 when 12 percent of the ‘original mass disappeared.’

Admittedly, Michaels is a Global Warming skeptic, however it doesn’t take much effort to find contradicting studies from scientists who believe in the Global Warming threat yet disagree with Thompson’s assertion.

This from Kilimanjaro’s Shrinking Snow Not Sign of Warming (2007):

While the retreat of glaciers and mountaintop ice in the mid-latitudes — where much of the world’s human population lives — is definitely linked to global climate change, the same cannot be said of Kilimanjaro, the researchers wrote in the July-August edition of American Scientist magazine.

This 2007 study was produced by pro-Warmers Philip Mote and glaciologist Georg Kaser from the University of Innsbruck.

Most of the retreat occurred before 1953, nearly two decades before any conclusive evidence of atmospheric warming was available, they wrote.

“It is certainly possible that the icecap has come and gone many times over hundreds of thousands of years,” Mote, a climatologist, said in a statement.

“But for temperate glaciers, there is ample evidence that they are shrinking, in part because of warming from greenhouse gases.”

Unlike mid-latitude glaciers, which are warmed and melted by surrounding air in the summer, the disappearance of Kilimanjaro’s ice is driven by solar radiation, since the air around it is rarely above freezing, they wrote.

From NatureJobs.com:

“As director of the new Oregon Climate Change Research Institute in Corvallis, Mote will design a research agenda to help the state and private sector incorporate climate-change considerations into their policy and investment decisions”

Mote and Kaser believe that where glaciers are shrinking due to Global Warming, the same can not be said for those on Kilimanjaro.

Much of Kilimanjaro’s ice is vanishing by sublimation — where ice at very low temperatures converts straight to water vapor without going through a watery phase — rather than by melting, the scientists said.

Interestingly, an article from 2008 (Kilimanjaro could be snow-free by 2020: UN) opens as follows:

Some of Africa’s most famous landscapes such as snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro and Lake Chad are at risk of vanishing forever as a result of global warming, a new UN report warned.

Achin Steiner, executive director of the United Nations’ Environment Program (UNEP) said that ‘it was vital that the international community delivers a new climate agreement before the global convention.’  This 2008 report along with Thompson’s 2009 version of the same report puts the alarmist view on Kilimanjaro in advance of the convention.

The survey warned that Mt Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, could be snow-free by 2020.

What I found interesting was the paragraph immediately preceding that statement.

Some of the startling revelations by the report include satellite images of Mount Kilimanjaro’s glaciers which have been disappearing since the beginning of the 20th century.

This, of course, brings us back to the question of how Kilimanjaro’s glaciers have been shrinking in the decades before Global Warming.

An article written by James M. Taylor for Junk Science (Kilimanjaro’s Snow Cap) from 2005 addressed the following:

The ice cap atop Central Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro has been slowly melting for decades, and perhaps even centuries, scientists report. Until recently, global warming was a prime suspect.

Scientists now agree, however, that the retreat of Kilimanjaro’s ice cap is due primarily to deforestation at the base of the mountain.

That conclusion has been reached by a wide variety of scientists and scientific publications. Nevertheless, the Reuters News Agency has teamed up with several extremist environmental activist groups to falsely report that global warming is causing a retreat of Kilimanjaro’s ice cap.

This is exactly what we’re seeing now.  Taylor links to numerous other studies that support his assertion that causes other than Global Warming can be attributed to the shrinking snow caps.

Dry Air:

“A drastic drop in atmospheric moisture at the end of the 19th century and the ensuing drier climatic conditions are likely forcing glacier retreat on Kilimanjaro.”

Temperature is NOT the driving force:

The underlying climatic forcing, however, merits further exploration, which was emphasized in the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [2001] in the context of global warming, since it has not been demonstrated that air temperature is the primary control of tropical glacier recession.

{snip}

On a regional scale the background of this study is twofold. First, it has been speculated that general global warming is directly driving the retreat of Kilimanjaro’s glaciers [e.g., Irion, 2001]. However, detailed analyses of glacier retreat in the global tropics uniformly reveal that changes in climate variables related to air humidity prevail in controlling the modern retreat

Deforestation:

“Although it’s tempting to blame the ice loss on global warming, researchers think that deforestation of the mountain’s foothills is the more likely culprit. Without the forests’ humidity, previously moisture-laden winds blew dry. No longer replenished with water, the ice is evaporating in the strong equatorial sunshine.”

There have been enough studies over the years to completely dispute Thompson’s (and others) claim that Global Warming is the root cause of the shrinking snow caps on Mount Kilimanjaro.  Regardless of which side of the Global Warming argument you belong, one thing is clear – Global Warming is not the culprit.

As a result, one can deduce that those who throw the claim around fall into one of two categories:

Those who cherry-picked the facts – intentionally ignoring all evidence that is contrary to the position they support.

Lazy scientists who refuse to do thorough research.  Instead of looking at all the facts – including previous studies and reports – they work to prove their hypothesis.

Either way, it is disingenuous.  What is worse was a simple Google search contradicts Thompson’s study by people who support the same pro-Global Warming position.  Since media outlets refuse to investigative research or have their own political agenda, it is easy to see how a incorrect study can be publicized in a story distributed by a major news outlet.

It is also shameless that AP would run this story – since it is essentially a reprint from June 2008 and right before the upcoming global convention in Copenhagen.

kilimanjaro 19127000

Kilimanjaro 1976 2006

Kilimanjaro 1976 and 2006

Kilimanjaro 1993 2000

Kilimanjaro 1993 and 2000

Sources used:

Snows of Kilimanjaro could vanish in 20 years: study –  02-NOV-2009

Current Kilimanjaro story

Snow cap disappearing from Mount Kilimanjaro –  2-NOV-2009

Kilimanjaro Snow May Vanish In 20 Years – 03-NOV-2009

Kilimanjaro could be snow-free by 2020: UN – 11-JUN-2008

Philip Mote & George Kaser’s position

Kilimanjaro’s Shrinking Snow Not Sign of Warming – 13-JUN-2007

Kilimanjaro snow decline ‘not due to global warming’ – 12-JUN-2007

Skeptic resources

The Snow Jobs of Kilimanjaro

Junk Science: Kilimanjaro’s Snow Cap – 01-MAY-2005

Links found through the Junk Science article:

Modern Glacier Retreat on Kilimanjaro as Evidence of Climate Change:  Observations and Facts – March 15, 2004

Journal of Geophysical Research August 25, 2004

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