The Furtwängler Glacier is located near the summit of Kilimanjaro and is a small remnant of an enormous icecap which once crowned the summit. This icecap has retreated significantly over the past century; between 1912 and 2000, 82 percent of the glacial ice on the mountain has disappeared. 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, 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.
Between measurements in 1976 and 2000, the area of Furtwängler Glacier was cut almost in half, from 113,000 m2 to 60,000 m2. During fieldwork conducted early in 2006, scientists discovered a large hole near the center of the glacier. This hole, extending through the 6 meter (20 ft) remaining thickness of the glacier to the underlying rock, was expected to grow and split the glacier in two by 2007.
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.
Expedition Research 2003 – 2013
Over the last ten years Tony van Marken has been monitoring the changes to the Furtwängler Glacier. This gallery shows photographs taken from expeditions over the period 2003 to today, which clearly illustrates how the glacier has broken up.
Photographs illustrating changes in Furtwängler glacier from 2003 – 2013 (Photography:Tony van Marken)
There is no doubt from looking at these photos that the glaciers continue to receed at a rapid pace.
Slide show illustrating changes in Furtwängler glacier from 2003 – 2013.
Updated with current pictures of the glacier after our summit day.