Compie turned his head and grinned and pointed
and there, ahead, all he could see, as wide as all the world, great, high,
and unbelievably white in the sun, was the square top of Kilimanjaro.
And then he knew that there was where he was going.
Were it not for Hemingways short story, what Douglas Hardy saw at the summit might not have made international news. The shrinking ice cap on Mount Kilimanjaro is not an isolated observation.
The retreat of mountain glaciers has been observed from Montana to Mount Everest to the Swiss Alps, and is one of the clearest signs that global warming appears to have exceeded typical climate shifts, noted a New York Times article which quoted the UMass geologist on his return from Tanzania in February.
But Kilimanjaro is exceptional in both beauty and fame. I dont know about you, but I like the snows of Kilimanjaro, a Penn State scientist told the Times.
Hardy is a member of the geosciences faculty whose work with the UMass Climate Lab dates back to Ph.D. studies he completed in 1995. High-elevation meteorology has been a specialty: In 1998, he climbed with colleagues Carsten Braun 97G and Mathias Vuille to the 21,000-foot summits of Mount Sajama and Mount Illimani in Bolivia, where they collected snow samples and upgraded weather station data.
On Kilimanjaro, the team retrieved the first yearlong record of data from a station near the summit. They found the mountains glaciers not only retreating but rapidly thinning: Hardy was startled to find the loss of a yard of thickness in 12 months. The instruments, which had been installed on a small tower, had recently fallen over because the ice securing the base was gone.
Tanzanians he spoke with find the trend as distressing as do scientists, Hardy told the Times. That mountain is the most mystical, magical draw to peoples imagination, he said. Once the ice disappears, its going to be a very different place.