I haven't been on the mountain for 11 months now, and am anxious to get back. Telemetry indicates that the rate of ablation during the current dry season has been unprecedented in the 10-year record - which is somewhat perplexing. Snow accumulation began on the glaciers within a few weeks of our October 2009 fieldwork and continued without much interruption until the very end of May, bringing a net accumulation of 70 cm to the Northern Ice Field. Ablation then began, and although measurements from the two sensors differ, most of this snow appears to have now ablated. Visiting the glaciers will allow evaluation of the extent to which melting, evaporation, and superimposed ice formation is responsible.
So, we depart later this month for the summit glaciers with an ambitious program and a collaborative team, including personnel from the Univ. of Massachusetts, Innsbruck University, and NASA JPL. Simon Mtuy and Summit Expeditions are again providing logistical support on the mountain. One of my objectives will be to add reference-quality instrumentation developed by the U.S. CRN (Climate Reference Network), establishing the first CRN station outside the Americas. Operating CRN instruments alongside those which have been on Kilimanjaro since February 2000 will provide an intercomparison with which the long-term data can be adjusted. Measuring air temperature in that environment, on snow and with solar radiation typically exceeding 1,200 W/m^2, is far more difficult than might be expected.
Accompanying work at the weather station will be measurement of how ablation on the glacier has varied spatially, while NASA team members investigate microbiological diversity in the ice. And we're optimistic about getting some dates soon on ice samples collected last October. Stay tuned!
-Doug Hardy, UMass Geosciences