The Infamous Kilimanjaro Snow Job

Greenhouse gas Kyoto advocates will use every scare tactic in the book, including the discredited Kilimanjaro theory. One author recently commented: "The Kilimanjaro ice field has melted by 80% it's maximum size photographed in 1912 AD. Projection of the melting rate into the future suggests that the ice cap will most likely disappear by 2015-2020 (10-15 years from now). This result is important because the ice sheet has been stable at this site for many millennia - the observed recent melting rate is exceptionally rapid."

The problem with the statement is that it is totally devoid of factual support at every level. The temperature data for East Africa support no inference of GHG warming: The National Academy of Sciences published a report* last year that defines the geographic regions of warming and cooling during the last 20 years. Surface measurements of East Africa show no warming trend (Fig. 6.2, p. 34). Weather satellites show a pronounced cooling trend of the atmosphere there (Fig. 7.1, p.43). No one has questioned these data. National Research Council. "Reconciling Observations of Global Temperature Change," National Academy Press, Washington, DC. January 2000.

The implication that the rate of decline at Kilimanjaro is increasing is a lie. "Kilimanjaro's glaciers lost 45 percent of their real extent in that era of non-human warming. If the glaciers had continued on their merry way at the pace established in that period, they would be gone by now." October 26, 2002 "The Snow Jobs of Kilimanjaro," by Patrick J. Michaels, u. of Virginia, Cato Institute, [note: Michaels uses the author of the Kilimanjaro study's own data, Thompson et al, OSU, 2002] Another glaring gap in Thompson theory on Kilimanjaro is that snow there declined during periods of temperature cooling: "From 1953 through 1976, another 21 percent of the original area was uncovered. This was during a period of global cooling-yes, cooling--of 0.13ºF. Ohio State could have accurately written the following hype at that time: "Kilimanjaro's glaciers will completely disappear by 2015 if this cooling trend continues". Michaels, supra.

There is a report that now argues the declines at Kilimanjaro are related to local conditions, the denuding of the slopes of timber that has changed local wind patterns. This makes a bunch more sense that general East Africa air temperatures, which explain nothing.

Use of the Kilimanjaro example tells anyone familar with the field that the source is an advocate, not a scientist. Kaser et al. demonstrate that all relevant 'observations and facts' clearly indicate that 'climatological processes other than air temperature control the ice recession in a direct manner' on Kilimanjaro, and that 'positive air temperatures have not contributed to the recession process on the summit...'" Kaser, G. and B. Noggler (1996): Glacier fluctuations in the Rwenzori Range (East Africa) during the 20th century - a preliminary report. Zeitschrift für Gletscherkunde und Glazialgeologie, 32, 109-117. See also Kaser, G., D.R. Hardy, T. Mölg, R.S. Bradley, and T.M. Hyera (2004): Modern glacier retreat on Kilimanjaro as evidence of climate change: Observations and facts. International Journal of Climatology, 24, 329-339, doi: 10.1002/joc.1008 ["climatological processes other than air temperature control the ice recession in a direct manner"]. Link:

This means that Kilimanjaro studies from 1996 to 2004 have contradicted the global temperature attribution done in the popular press and by Kyoto advocates. So when one hears the Kilimanjaro example, you can bet that the speaker or writer is not a careful scientists or researcher, just a political operative with an agenda.


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