Historical Trends of African Glacier Dynamics

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Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world, was long renowned for its summit glaciers, immortalized by Ernest Hemingway in his famous short story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” Over the first few years of the current century, its disappearing summit ice fields were once again made famous, this time by political luminaries such as Al Gore, Hillary Clinton and John McCain, who cited them as unmistakable evidence of the deleterious consequences of human-induced global warming.

On the floor of the U.S. Senate during debate on Senate Bill 139 back in 2004, for example, Arizona Senator John McCain called this attribution not only a fact, but a fact “that cannot be refuted by any scientist.”

Then in subsequent debate on the same bill, former New York Senator Hillary Clinton echoed Senator McCain’s sentiments. Displaying a set of photos taken from the same vantage point in 1970 and 1999 – the first depicting “a 20-foot-high glacier” and the second “only a trace of ice” – she said that in those pictures “we have evidence in the most dramatic way possible of the effects of 29 years of global warming.”

Nevertheless, and in spite of the absolute certitude with which the two senators expressed their views on the subject – which allowed for no “wiggle room” whatsoever – scientific analyses have shown both of them to be as wrong as they could possibly be.

 

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