Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Please share recent glacier photos!

Horizontal surfaces on Kilimanjaro glaciers are ablating rapidly at the moment (i.e., melting and sublimating), largely because the 2016 short rains "failed". Typically, a short wet season occurs during November and December, when snowfall at the summit dramatically raises albedo and the associated decrease in net radiation receipt decreases the energy available to drive ablation. During the 2016 short rains, a series of minor snowfall events were sufficient to end a long dry season which began in May, yet once this new snow ablated, the dark, decades- to centuries-old ice surface was exposed again. Ablation began accelerating, and since the New Year, flat areas of the Northern Ice Field have lost ~15 cm of snow and ice.

Snowfall during January and February is usually limited, and quite variable from year to year. Therefore, a high rate of ablation is likely to continue until the long rains begin, typically in March. One wildcard at this time of year due is some tropical cyclone paths in the south-west Indian Ocean, which can result in heavy snowfall on the mountain. This year, however, there has been little cyclone activity in the SWIO region - and indeed, the period 13 December to 31 January is the first on record (since 1960) without a hurricane (cyclone) somewhere on Earth, according to a @philklotzbach tweet.

Anyone visiting Kilimanjaro during February is encouraged to submit photos of the summit area. Any glacier photos would be helpful, especially looking to the south just below Uhuru Peak or across the crater to the Northern Icefield. One weather station is visible near the summit (upper slopes of Kersten Glacier) and another on the Northern Icefield should be barely visible on images taken with a telephoto lens and/or high resolution.

Thank you!

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