Glacial recession in Africa: - the Rwenzori

Glacial recession in the Rwenzori

Two recent works on the glaciers and glaciations in the Rwenzori are a major contribution to the study of glacial recession in East Africa. Glaciers and Glaciations by Henry Osmaston is an A1 sheet with detailed maps of moraine and other evidence of former glaciations during last 300,000 years. It includes an account of present glaciers since 1906 with photographs, tables of glacial chronology and precipitation, maps and sections showing Equilibrium Line Altitudes. The map was funded by the WWF.

The three oldest pictures to the right (taken from the above map) are taken from the Stanley Plateau looking towards Alexandra (L) and Margherita (R) show progressive glacial progressive recession. The 2012 picture taken by Wielochowski dramatically demonstrates recent recession which could result with complete melting of the glaciers by the year 2050 or as early as 2025 depending on the rate of global warming.

The second work, Tropical Glaciers, by Georg Kaiser and Henry Osmaston, is published by the Cambridge Univerity Press,

"Tropical glaciers are both highly sensitive indicators of global climate and important freshwater reservoirs in some fast developing regions. This book gives a practical and theoretical analysis of tropical glaciology, including a useful definition of tropical glacier climate regimes and the analysis of the key glaciological variables. The Rwenzori Mountains and the Cordillera Blanca are investigated in detail as examples of tropical giacierized mountains. The fluctuations of their glaciers since the end of the Little Ice Age are reconstructed and the probable climatic reasons are discussed. A striking example of the serious dangers of disastrous floods posed by the current retreats of glaciers in some regions and consequent breaching of moraine-dammed proglacial lakes is described in detail, and how it was effectively made safe.

The evidence of great expansions of mountain glaciers throughout the tropics on several occasions during the Quaternary is summarized with particular attention to East Africa and the Rwenzori. The morphological and statistical methods of inferring the former climatic regimes which caused these advances are critically examined and then applied to particular mountains. They indicate that on these occasions tropical glaciers may have had different characteristics to modem ones, which affected their behaviour and so necessitate care in drawing inferences from their traces."

The book is accompanied by maps of the Rwenzori Mountains National Park and part of the adjoining Parc National des Virungas at scales of 1:65 000 and 1:100 000 with further detailed information on the back. These show the spectacular retreat of the glaciers over the last century, and their previous great extensions over half the area of the Park in the last 300 000 years. The book and the map provide an integrated information source, though further copies of the map are obtainable separately from Stanfords, 12-14 Long Acre, Covent Garden, London WC2E 9LP, U.K.; from MUIENR, Makerere University, P.O. Box 7298 Kampala, Uganda; or from Oesterreichischer Alpenverein, Verwaltungsausschuss, Wilhelm-Greil-Str. 15, A-6010 Innsbruck, Austria.

This book is one of the International Hydrology Series, a collaborative publishing programme between the International Hydrology Programme, UNESCO and Cambridge University Press. The IHP addresses theoretical issues in the conduct of hydrological research as well as practical, applied and water management issues raised by hydrological projects. Authoritative and international in scope, the series constitutes a major collection of research monographs, synthesis volumes and graduate texts.


    Prologue. The story of a glacial lake
  1. A brief introduction on the matter
  2. The delimitation of the tropics
  3. The distribution of glaciers in the tropics
  4. Working hypotheses
  5. Glaciological key variables: tropics and mid-latitudes in comparison
  6. Modern glacier fluctuations on the Rwenzori
  7. Modern glacier fluctuations in the Cordillera Blanca
  8. Modern glacier fluctuations in the tropics and their possible causes
  9. Former Quaternary tropical glaciers: their nature, extents and climates, with special reference to the East African mountains
Tropical Glaciers: 2001, 276 x 219mm, 224pp, 70 line diagrams, 70 half-tones, 40 tables, 35 graphs, Hardback, ISBN 0521633338, 75.00. Also available through EWP (ewp@ewpnet).
Stanley Group by Vittorio Sella
Vittorio Sella 1906
Stanley Group by Henry Osmaston
Henry Osmaston 1958
Stanley Group by Randy Willard
Randy Willard 1992

Stanley by Andrew Wielochowski
Andrew Wielochowski 2012
Stanley from Baker

Vittorio Sella 1906
Stanley Group by Andrew Wielochowski
Andrew Wielochowski 1990

See also: Glacial Recession in the Kilimanjaro

and EWP trips to the Rwenzori

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© Andrew Wielochowski 2/9/2014