Tuesday, June 10, 2008

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Rwenzori Glaciers

Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo
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A comparison of satellite images from 1987 and 2005 shows a decrease in the extent of glaciers on Speke, Stanley, and Baker peaks in the Rwenzori Mountains, which lie on the equator between Uganda and Democratic Republic of the Congo, and are a major source of water for the lower plains like Kasese. Seasonal changes in snow and ice cover prevent simple visual analysis from conclusively measuring the decline of these glaciers. However, scientific findings from studies in 2003 and 2006 show that the glaciers at the tops of the Rwenzori Mountains are rapidly receding. The glaciers declined by 50 per cent between 1987 and 2003.

This glacial recession is generally attributed to increased air temperature and decreased snow accumulation during the 20th century. It has recently been suggested that decreasing cloud cover during that same time period has contributed to a higher rate of sublimation (vaporisation of ice without melting) of these glaciers as well.

A century ago the glaciers of the Rwenzori Mountains covered nearly 6.5 km2. If the glaciers continue to recede, as they have since 1906, researchers estimate they will be gone in the next 20 years.
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