May 20, 2010

Rwenzori Glacier Retreat-Loss

Posted by Mauri Pelto

The Rwenzori Range,Uganda typically referred to as Mountains of the Moon have been rapidly losing their glacier cover. The small, steep glaciers descend the peaks of Mt. Stanley: 5111 m, Mt. Speke: 4891 m and Mt. Baker:4873 m. The Georg Kaser, University of Innsbruck visited the range twice in the early 1990’s to prepare maps of glacier change to compare to a 1906 map derived from documents of the Duke of Abruzzi’s expedition, the 1955 map made from vertical air-photos. They determined the area of the glaciers to be 6.5 km2 in 1906, 3.2 km2 in 1955 and 1.7 km2 in the 1990’s, note Speke Glacier as an example. This represents a 70% area loss. An updated satellite based analysis by Texas A&M’s Klein and Kincaid showed that the glaciers in the Rwenzori have decreased in area from 2.55 km2 in 1987 to 1.31 km2 in 2006. I have had the good fortune to work in the field with both Georg Kaser, Taku Glacier, Alaska and Andrew Klein, Easton Glacier, Washington, both have made tropical glaciers one of their specialties. This is nearly a 50% loss in 20 years. The climate trends and glacier extent trends are not in favor of the glaciers lasting for long. This is reinforced by a comparison of images from Mount Stanley from the World Wildlife Fund.