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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick: Kilimanjaro Snow No Mo'? (for the Week of Jan. 14, 2007)

January 9, 2007

Q. Dear Twig: What does global warming have to do with the snows of Kilimanjaro? [See last week.]

A.: Well, scientists think it's making them melt, that's what.


Yes, the famous snows of Kilimanjaro, Africa's tallest mountain, soon may disappear.

Ohio State scientist Lonnie Thompson says the "snows" — great thick fields of built-up ice that give the peak a cap of white — have thinned by more than 50 feet since 1962. That three-quarters of these fields have vanished since 1912. And that the rest could go by 2015.

He says this based on research. He goes to Kilimanjaro. Climbs to the top. (Tricky. It's 19,340 feet up!) Drills down deep in the ice and takes samples — ice cores (a history of how and when the ice formed). Hauls them back to his lab. Sees what they tell him.

Which is?

"The world is warming," he said in a story in Time magazine, "and it is foolish to pretend that it's not."


P.S. Why are they famous? Ernest Hemingway's famous story, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro."

Notes: Lonnie Thompson is a professor of geological sciences in Ohio State's College of Mathematical and Physical Sciences. His research, naturally, takes a team and teammates. Read more about their work at the Web site of Ohio State's Byrd Polar Research Center, Sources included an Ohio State press release, "Snows of Kilimanjaro Disappearing, Glacial Ice Loss Increasing"; "The Iceman" in Time; "The Ice Hunter" in Rolling Stone; and "High-climbing Ice Expert Gets to Core of Climate Change" in National Geographic (all of them readily Googleable). Got a hot question for Twig? Send it to Kurt Knebusch,

About this column: "Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick," a free public service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences — specifically, of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and Ohio State University Extension, both part of the College — is a weekly column for children about science, nature, farming and the environment. The reading level typically rates at grades 3.5-4.5. For details, to ask Twig a question, and/or to receive the column free by mail or e-mail, contact the writer, Kurt Knebusch, CommTech, OSU/OARDC,1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691,, (330) 263-3776. Online at


Kurt Knebusch