Kilimanjaro has a habit of defying predictions. Some climate scientists had forecast that all of its icefields and glaciers would have completely melted by now. Yet data suggests a number are stubbornly clinging on, albeit shrunken.
Predictions that there would be no more snow on Africa’s highest peak long before we entered this decade spurred a rush of visitors to see the white cap of Mount Kilimanjaro before it vanished for ever.
Yet climbers have been wading through snowdrifts on its upper reaches this month, confounding prophecies most notably featured in An Inconvenient Truth, the 2006 documentary on climate changewritten and fronted by Al Gore, the former US vice-president.
“The snow has certainly got my clients talking,” Methley Swai, owner of the Just-Kilimanjaro trekking company, said. “Many people have made Kilimanjaro a bucket list priority because of the Al Gore deadline but when they get here they are pleasantly surprised to find lots of snow.”
There were also abnormally high snowfalls in 2018, which led to the highest recorded growth for the total snow depth on Tanzania’s inactive volcano, an aggregated increase of 1.2m.
Mr Swai, 50, a guide who has been to the summit of Kilimanjaro 115 times over the past two decades, also reported his clients’ surprise at seeing “huge glaciers, a couple of storeys high” at its higher camps.
The mountain, which looms over the plains of Tanzania, has a habit of defying predictions. Some climate scientists had forecast that all Kilimanjaro’s icefields and glaciers would have completely melted by now. Yet data suggests a number are stubbornly clinging on, albeit shrunken.
Doug Hardy, a climate researcher from the University of Massachusetts, who has scaled and monitored the mountain for 20 years, returns this week to carry out the latest assessment.
“The timing on all those predictions was obviously off,” he said before leaving America. “But most importantly, all glaciers on the mountain continue to decrease in thickness and in area.”