Proposals for observation point on ‘Kili’

A CLIMBER stands atop Mountain Kilimanjaro where scientists have proposed to establish an observation point. (File photo)


KILIMANJARO has been, from time immemorial, known for its mammoth size and its three volcanic cones of dormant Kibo and extinct Mawenzi and Shira, as the highest mountain in Africa.

Myriad of people have heard of it, looked at it on still and moving photos, come close to it and some conquered it or had themselves conquered by it, but make the history all the same.

Despite the fact that so many people have heard and read of the mountain, there are some things that have all along been missing in its accolades, one of them being non-inclusion in the Cryonet. Why should Kilimanjaro be a part of Cryonet?

It is because it has, seemingly, all the required features as other mountainous areas in other parts of the earth that are observed under the set system and afforded necessary resources to tap the necessary data for study and ultimately environmental conservation.

Dr Ladislaus Chang’a is a member of the Panel of Experts on Polar and High Mountain Observations, Research and Services was present at a recent extensive meeting of scientists who met at Arusha International Conference Centre (AICC) to discuss matters, among them, that of Mount Kilimanjaro to be considered for observation.

He says if the GCW’ members recommendations that the Africa’s highest mountain be considered for observation system by establishing a Cryonet station on it, then it would mean setting yet another world record.

The recommendations are to be forwarded to higher organs with the World Meteorological Organizations (WMO). Inclusion would be a move to make Kilimanjaro the first mountainous area in Africa to have such a station.

Dr Chang’a says the meeting was very successful in promoting Mount Kilimanjaro and Tanzania as a country because scientists deliberated of importance of Mount Kilimanjaro to people as well as learning about the glacier and weather and the environment generally.

Dr Chang’a says that by the mountain having the said station, Tanzania would benefit as resources would be provided for scientific research, data collection and knowledge beyond a site’s local region, such as establish the reason behind depletion of glacier and how change of weather could affect the mountain and surrounding areas. Mount Kenya and Mount Ruwenzori have also been proposed to have such stations.

“The meeting was very successful as experts discussed extensively matters relating to Mount Kilimanjaro such as presence of the glacier, its depletion from time to time. Now having the station at Mount Kilimanjaro, we will be able at the end of the day to establish why glacier is lessening, how climatic conditions affect it.

The recommendations will be forwarded to higher organs to be worked on. This is a great achievement for Tanzania as we have promoted the country as well,” says Dr Chang’a.

Mount Kilimanjaro will be part of an international, operational, global observing system and thus providing observations of known quality for research and knowledge beyond a site’s local region, bringing better visibility and a recognition of the importance of the observations made at the site. That in turn could bring better support, either funding or logistical support.

GCW promotes the exchange of knowledge and data, so Cryonet sites might see broader use of their data and products. Tanzania Meteorological Agency (TMA) Director General, Dr Agnes Kijazi has all along been optimistic that such measure would one day be taken, regardless of challenges the country faced.

Dr Kijazi who is also the Permanent Representative of Tanzania with the WMO notes that it had been difficult to convince GCW for some tropical countries, Tanzania being one, to be joined in the program.

The DG says that due to lack of information and data emanating from inadequate observation, there is very limited understanding about the potential impacts of climate change on High Mountains and its associated ecosystems, including water resources and diversity of flora and fauna.

She says that the recession of glacier is linked to a complex combination of changes in air temperature, air humidity, precipitations, cloudiness and incoming shortwave radiation that is linked to diversity in weather and climate patterns.

Despite the observed diversity in weather and climate patterns around Mount Kilimanjaro, very little has been done regarding weather observation and monitoring, especially at the upper part of the mountain.

The DG says that being part of a global network brings not only better visibility but also a recognition of the importance of the observations made at one’s site. That in turn, could bring better support, either funding or logistical support. GCW surface observation network is comprised of a core component, called Cryo- Net, and contributing stations.

The GCW network builds on existing cryosphere observing programs and promotes the addition of standardized cryospheric observations to existing facilities in order to create more robust environmental observatories.

Contributing stations are those that provide useful measurements of the cryosphere. These stations may be in remote, hard to access regions where cryospheric observations are scarce or in regions where they complement other cryospheric measurements. The mountain is part of the Kilimanjaro National Park and is a major climbing destination.

The mountain has been the subject of many scientific studies because of its shrinking glaciers and disappearing ice fields.

One of experts in meteorological sciences, Professor Jeff Key from the United States, says that WMO’s ability to support on-going development and delivery of weather, climate, and water services contributes to ensuring the sustainable development and wellbeing of nations.

Professor Key who was in Arusha as well, says that The First GCW Implementation Workshop was in 2011, the first CryoNet Workshop in 2012, and the first GCW Snow Watch workshop was in early 2013 and laid the groundwork for the implementation of GCW.

There began the definition of the surface- based network and initiated product inter-comparisons. He says that GCW has made considerable progress over the last few years, with major contributions coming through regional workshops. He has done a research in satellite meteorology and climatology of the Polar Regions.

He has developed algorithms and models for use in the retrieval of cloud properties, radioactive fluxes, snow and ice characteristics, and tropospheric winds from optical satellite data. He says that regional groups would be formed to foster multi-national collaboration between members with interests in the same region.

That could augur well with the three East African countries of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda for their mountainous areas, to wit, Mount Kenya, Ruwenzori and Kilimanjaro, respectively

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