|Mount Kilimanjaro as seen from Moshi town, Kilimanjaro region|
Kilimanjaro rises from its base, and approximately 5,100 m (16,732 ft) from the plains near Moshi. Kibo is capped by an almost symmetrical cone with scarps rising 180 to 200 m on the south side. These scarps define a 2.5 km wide caldera. Within this caldera is an inner crater, the Reusch Crater. This inner crater was named after Dr. Richard Reusch. The name was conferred by the government of Tanganyika in 1954 at the same time it awarded Reusch a gold medal on having climbed Kilmanjaro for the 25th time. Reusch climbed Kilimanjaro 65 times and helped to establish the exact altitude of the crater. Within the Reusche Crater lies the Ash Pit. The Reusche Crater itself is nearly surrounded by a 400 feet (120 m) high dune of volcanic ash.
|The decrease in snow/ice cover on the summit from 1993 (top) to 2000 (bottom).|
In the late 1880s the summit of Kibo was completely covered by an ice cap with outlet glaciers cascading down the western and southern slopes, and, except for the inner cone, the entire caldera was buried. Glacier ice flowed also through the Western Breech.
An examination of ice cores taken from the North Ice Field Glacier indicate that the "snows of Kilimanjaro" (aka glaciers) have a basal age of 11,700 years. A continuous ice cap covering approximately 400 square kilometers covered the mountain during the period of maximum glaciation, extending across the summits of Kibo and Mawenzi. The glacial ice survived drought conditions during a three century period beginning ~2200 BCE.
The period from 1912 to now witnessed more than 80% of the ice cover on Kilimanjaro disappearing. From 1912-1953 there was ~1% annual loss, while 1989-2007 saw ~2.5% per year. Of the ice cover still present in 2000, 26% had disappeared by 2007. While the current shrinking and thinning of Kilimanjaro's ice fields appears to be unique within its almost twelve millennium history, it is contemporaneous with widespread glacier retreat in mid-to-low latitudes across the globe. Unless trends change, Kilimanjaro could become ice-free as early as 2020.
|Aerial view of the Kibo summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.|