Thursday, September 14, 2017

Sep-Oct Fieldwork

It's time for another visit to the summit glaciers!

Final planning is underway for fieldwork during late September into October, and we anticipate finding dramatic changes since August of 2016. For example, measurements at the AWS indicate that the Northern Icefield surface is more than 60 cm lower than at the time of our 2016 visit - at a location where specific mass balance remained more-or-less neutral for ~ 5 years. With this much ablation (lowering), maintaining vertical towers is difficult, as the middle image below illustrates; by February 2017 the time-lapse camera frame was already leaning, and ablation has continued since then.

Our primary tasks during fieldwork will be to recover AWS data and service the instruments. Almost all towers will probably need to be reset, due to ablation of the glacier surface. We will spend time on both the Northern Icefield, and the south-side Kersten Glacier (see second image).

We will also visit our network of ablation stakes on the glaciers (4th image), updating height change measurements last made in August 2016. Many of these stakes will require resetting, which we do by drilling new holes into the glacier surface.

Finally, we will make observations and measurements at several sites where geothermal heat is causing basal melting, as shown in the lowermost image. Previously-located sites will be visited, and we will search for new ones.

Accompanying us at the summit will be Dr. Chang'a of the Tanzania Meteorological Agency and the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). We are looking forward to interesting discussions about Kilimanjaro climate and climate change in general, as we ascend the mountain, attend to the weather stations, and document ongoing glacier retreat.

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