Monday, February 3, 2020

Stable weather returns [updated]

February weather on Kilimanjaro is often characterized by a dry interval, between the Short Rains of approximately Nov/Dec, and Long Rains within the Mar/Apr/May time period. As noted previously, the Short Rains brought considerable rain to the mountain this year, with snow up high, beginning in early October. That wet period appears to have ended.

The upper image from 2 February shows patchy snowcover on the upper 1000 meters of the mountain's south side, as viewed from above Moshi (Simon Mtuy credit). Distinguishing remnants of the former Southern Icefield from snowcover is difficult here.

The second image above was acquired today by the ESA Sentinel-2 satellite, revealing continuous snowcover within the summit caldera, and on the upper slopes. The stable-weather cumulus clouds visible here appear only slightly more extensive than those on the day before (top image).

Although telemetry of data from the Northern Icefield (NIF) weather station is not currently available (budget constraints), several recent reports from climbers confirm what the images depict. On 23 January, collaborator Sarah Konrad visited the NIF and measured a mean snowdepth of ~0.60 m around the weather station. Shortly thereafter (28 Jan.), Simon was above the Western Breach in the Furtwängler Glacier area, reporting "almost one meter of snow."

Images below show Simon's camp at Arrow Glacier on the 27th, looking south across the Western Breach, and a Furtwängler Glacier remnant near Crater Camp (Sarah Konrad credit). Finally, a photo of the NIF weather station from Sarah reveals that the equipment is overdue for a "service visit". Fortunately, planning is underway to visit the station later this month!

[UPDATE 02/04:  Our friend Timba keeps close tabs on Kilimanjaro weather from Moshi, in the interest of safety for the many guides and porters working on the mountain. It was Timba who inspired our analysis of how tropical cyclones might influence snowfall on the mountain (Collier et al., 2019).

Timba wrote today, emphasizing how wet the region has been in recent months, especially at the end of September and through most of October 2019. As he points out, this is the time when the
Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) was very strongly positive, a water temperature pattern associated with heavy rain in eastern Africa - and bushfires in Australia (read more here and here).

So, has stable weather really returned to Kilimanjaro? Although the IOD has returned to a neutral pattern, older friends of Timba's equate the current rainfall pattern with that of Oct. 1988 to June 1989 - when the two rainy seasons merged into one long wet season.]

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