Furtwängler Glacier

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Furtwängler Glacier
Glacier at summit of Mt Kilimanjaro 001.JPG
Furtwängler Glacier (foreground) as it appeared in August 2003. Behind the glacier are snowfields and the Northern Icefield
Type Mountain glacier
Location Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Coordinates 3°4′15″S 37°21′07″E / 3.07083°S 37.35194°E / -3.07083; 37.35194
Area 60,000 m2 (15 acres) (in 2000)
Thickness 6 m (20 ft) (in 2006)
Terminus Moraine/talus
Status Retreating

The Furtwängler Glacier is located near the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Furtwängler Glacier is a small remnant of an enormous icecap which once crowned the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. This icecap has retreated significantly over the past century; between 1912 and 2000, 82 percent of the glacial ice on the mountain has disappeared.[1] The retreat of glacial ice on the summit is expected to continue and by the year 2020, all the glaciers on top of the mountain may be gone,[2] although seasonal snows will continue to cover the higher sections of the mountain for several months of the year. The glacier is named after Walter Furtwängler, who along with Siegfried König, were the fourth to ascend to the summit of Kilimanjaro in 1912.[3]

Between measurements in 1976 and 2000, the area of Furtwängler Glacier was cut almost in half, from 113,000 m2 to 60,000 m2.[4] During fieldwork conducted early in 2006, scientists discovered a large hole near the center of the glacier. This hole, extending through the 6 meters (20 feet) remaining thickness of the glacier to the underlying rock, was expected to grow and split the glacier in two by 2007.[1]

NASA image from 2004 with locations of major glaciers on Mount Kilimanjaro. Areas not identified are generally small remnant glaciers or snowfields. Click on image for detail.

The 2006 study found that no new glacial ice has accumulated on any of the glaciers on the mountain in the 21st century. This may mark the termination of a unique 11,700 year record of climate variability in Africa. Only ice cores previously obtained and preserved in the freezers of the laboratories of glaciologists will remain.

A 2010 study, published in the journal Global and Planetary Change, has suggested that glacial retreat on Kilimanjaro has also been influenced by deforestation on the mountain's lower slopes, by reducing the flow of moisture up the mountainside.[5]

The demise of the Furtwängler Glacier, and the other remaining Kilimanjaro glaciers, may reduce tourism because the novelty of glacier ice in proximity to the equator is one of the attractions of the area. Even more immediate is the potential adverse impact on the availability of fresh water from springs and wells that are partially supplied by glacier melt. An investigation of the fraction of fresh water supplied by this source was undertaken in 2006 by Ohio State University.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Snows of Kilimanjaro Disappearing, Glacial Ice Loss Increasing". Ohio State University. Retrieved 2006-08-31. 
  2. ^ Tyson, Peter. "Vanishing into Thin Air". Volcano Above the Clouds. NOVA. Retrieved 2006-08-31. 
  3. ^ "The history of Kilimanjaro". Excerpt from "Kilimanjaro" by Henry Stedman. Climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Retrieved 2007-05-03. 
  4. ^ Thompson, Lonnie G., et al. "Kilimanjaro Ice Core Records: Evidence of Holocene Climate Change in Tropical Africa" (pdf). Science. Retrieved 2006-08-31. 
  5. ^ Pepin, N. C.; W. J. Duane; D. R. Hardy (November 2010). "The montane circulation on Kilimanjaro, Tanzania and its relevance for the summit ice fields: Comparison of surface mountain climate with equivalent reanalysis parameters". Global and Planetary Change 74 (2): 61–75. doi:10.1016/j.gloplacha.2010.08.001. Retrieved 3 March 2011.