Uganda-¬™s fabled Rwenzori icefield may disappear in decades because of climate change, a new study reports. A British-Ugandan team says an increase in air temperature over the last forty years has contributed to a substantial reduction in glacial cover.
The Rwenzori Mountains, straddling the border between Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, are home to one of four remaining tropical ice fields outside the Andes and are world renowned for their spectacular and rare plant and animal life.
The amazing effects of Afro-Alpine gigantism mean that small plants grow to extraordinary sizes and the mountains are one of Uganda-¬™s major tourism attractions. A small industry has developed in the foothills of the Rewenzoris facilitating treks and trails through the mountains.
Rwenzoris legendary status may stretch back to a reference by the 2nd Century AD Greek geographer Ptolemy, who wrote of snow-capped equatorial peaks that fed the Nile: "The Mountains of the Moon whose snows feed the lakes, sources of the Nile".
An analysis of data from field surveys and images from the LandSat satellites shows the combined area of the Rwenzori glaciers has halved from around two sq km to just under one sq km since 1987. Increased air temperature is the main driver behind the loss of glacial cover.
Trends point to an air temperature rise of roughly half a degree Celsius per decade since the 1960s without any significant change in annual rainfall.
Of the three African icefields only 0.4 sq km remain on Mount Kenya, three sq km on Kilimanjaro and 0.96 sq km in the Rwenzori.
Monday, June 23, 2008