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Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The death of the Ruwenzori Glaciers

A new project is mapping the glaciers of Africa -- looking in particular at the Ruwenzori and Kilimanjaro.  There are some spectacular photos on the Guardian web site.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/gallery/2012/jun/02/africa-forgotten-glaciers-in-pictures#/?picture=391043249&index=4

The picture is a universally depressing one.  These two photos are from more or less the same place -- the top one shows the Ruwenzori Glaciers and snowfields as they were in 1925, and the lower photo shows the situation today. Now there is virtually nothing left -- within a decade or so all the ice will probably have melted.  Glaciers have come and gone before, but climatic warming is causing a phenomenally fast shrinkage of glaciers in vulnerable locations at present.....

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

What a very sad set of photos and the last is perhaps the most ironical- those who contribute least to global warming will be the first harmed-
I am pretty certain that the water supply for Mombassa-such as it is- comes from Killi and so too may dry up fairly soon.
M
I think that the Ruwenzori Mtns have volcanoes that errupt lavas of washing soda- certainly some of the most exotic igneous rocks on the planet.

chris johnson said...

Other areas become habitable so I am not all pessimism. While glaciers are beautiful they are also cold and deadly.

I suspect we are killing our planet with over-population and exploitation. Still the ice-ages were not friendly either so back-to-nature is not an attractive option. Every student of pre-history knows that climate change is not new.

Let us not be maudlin. Global warming can be solved tomorrow by pumping commonly available gasses into the upper atmosphere - except we are not 100% sure of the side-effects. Rely on science - we have no other option. Meanwhile investing in renewable energy is not a bad thing, especially when it can be done with money we print.

BRIAN JOHN said...

A bit off topic here! Disagree with you totally, Chris. The assumption that we can rely on science to sort out climate warming is dangerous and complacent, in my view. It needs political will and changes in lifestyle -- and an acceptance that we all have to make do with less -- if we are going to sort out the problems that we as mankind have created for ourselves. The assumption that we can find a technical fix for everything is one of the reasons for the mess we are in.

chris johnson said...

I think we will need to rely on science because the drivers of change are not reversible. We have too many people on the planet already and billions living in poverty while aspiring to a western lifestyle. You cannot tell these people to make do with less because they have next to nothing. The population is expanding, as are the sources of air pollution. Meanwhile we have western politicians arguing for more growth to solve debt problems. (US and Euro governments are backpedalling on pollution in case it affects the economy).

We are living on a crazy planet and you as a geologist know that better than I. Either we use science to get on top of the situation or we will go the way of the dinosaurs.

And even should we adapt our lifestyle such that we do not impose change on the environment, nature illustrates that we cannot be complacent. Just look at the changes that have happened naturally in the last few million years.

Jon Morris said...

Without a change in attitude, any solution will not be implemented. Science can help a bit but there is a vast amount of disinformation in the public domain.

Odd to be discussing sustainability in a blog devoted to one of the most sustainable, but unknown, achievements on the planet?

Anonymous said...

Taken from SALON the on-line 'mag', for FSAs.
A little intro then the main course.

"The newly published issue of Antiquity is notable for several reasons, not least for the debate between Fellows Robin Derricourt, Antiquity Editor Martin Carver and a certain Christopher Catling (who he?) on the uses and misuses of archaeology. But enough self-advertising. In his editorial, Martin Carver includes an extract from a remarkable poem by Samuel Daniel (1562―1619), published in 1599 in a volume entitled Poetical Essays, on the frustrations of a traveller seeking the meaning of Stonehenge and dismissing ‘ignorant’ tales of ‘magic and Merlin’. Martin comments that Glyn Daniel knew the poem and referred to it in a 1978 Antiquity editorial, but didn’t publish it. The work deserves to be more widely known, so, for the benefit of those who do not have access to Antiquity or Poetical Essays, here it is:

And whereto serve that wondreous trophy now,
That on the goodly plain near Wilton stands?
That huge dumb heap, that cannot tell us how,
Nor what, nor whence it is, nor with whose hands,
Nor for whose glory, it was set to shew
How much our pride mockes that of other lands?

Whereon when as the gazing passenger
Hath greedy lookt with admiration,
And faine would know his birth, and what he were,
How there erected, and how long agone:
Enquires and askes his fellow travailer
What he hath heard and his opinion:

And he knowes nothing. Then he turnes againe
And looks and sighs, and then admires afresh,
And in himselfe with sorrow doth complaine
The misery of dark forgetfulnesse;
Angrie with time that nothing should remain,
Our greatest wonders-wonder to expresse.

Then ignorance, with fabulous discourse,
Robbing faire arte and cunning of their right,
Tels how those stones were by the devil’s force
From Affricke brought to Ireland in a night,
And thence to Britannie by magicke course,
From giants hand redeem’d by Merlin’s sleight.

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
M

chris johnson said...

Agree with both of you but perhaps I would go further. There are all sorts of life threatening problems on the planet, not only global warming, and we will need to live differently (and smarter) if they are to be solved. Unlike Brian I do not think we have to go to a rationing model, but we certainly need to figure out what we actually need and how to share fairly while managing the ecosystem.

Farming spread not by force of arms, I think, but it was recognized to be a more promising lifestyle. Today we have some examples of success stories in countries like Sweden and Germany that are linked to belief in sustainability - I don't think it coincidental that Germany has a strong green party AND a strong economy. Nor is it surprising that British politicians travel to Sweden to learn how to do several things better, including social justice.

We also have these stories on the individual level too. Not everybody wants to emulate the reality TV star or the city banker in a Ferrari. My optimism is based in a belief that the majority do not want this for themselves.

What can we learn from pre-history? Much I think, including how attitudes change. A big puzzle to me is how Stonehenge suddenly stopped and why we still do not understand why it ever was.

Sorry Brian, this may go way off-topic and if you want to close it then I understand. Still I am happy to engage with my new cyber friends on your blog when you allow..

Jon Morris said...

Unlike Brian I do not think we have to go to a rationing model, but we certainly need to figure out what we actually need and how to share fairly while managing the ecosystem.

Yes, the concept of fairness is difficult to define and implement, especially with the recent attempts by high earners to grab a larger share of wealth before the resources problem becomes too severe.

What can we learn from pre-history? Much I think, including how attitudes change. A big puzzle to me is how Stonehenge suddenly stopped and why we still do not understand why it ever was.

My hope would be that it could show a direction; Something which might inspire a more positive take up of the challenges posed by GW, Peak Oil and mineral depletion?

Tony Hinchliffe said...

An attempt at an optimistic comment regarding the need for global fairness: interesting to hear that the London Olympics Opening Ceremony may be making something of a nod towards a less frenetic, market-driven way of life with its theme of a Shakespeare-inspired British countryside. Yes, we could be cynical and say all this does is make a play for boosting our Tourist industry. Anyway, folks on this Stonehenge-themed blog, at least Glastonbury Tor is to be featured, so WHY NOT the Stonehenge erratics and Stonehenge itself, since those elusive erratics might have been deposited by glaciation somewhere close to the Tor, only 30 miles or so from the ancient pile itself?

Anonymous said...

seen this?
http://www.thisisdevon.co.uk/Dartmoor-developed-Ice-Age-glaciers-ndash/story-16355689-detail/story.html

PeteG

BRIAN JOHN said...

Thank you Pete! No. I hadn't seen it -- but I have been in touch with both of these authors before, and broadly knew their views. Will stick up a post about the new work...