The snow-capped expanse of Mount Kilimanjaro is one of Africa’s most iconic landmarks. Both majestic and remote, its summit stands at a staggering 5,895 metres (19,341 feet) above sea level. But just how cold is it up there? In this article, we’ll explore the changing temperatures experienced on Mount Kilimanjaro over time and get insights from experts to understand the factors that contribute to its chill.
Mount Kilimanjaro Temperatures
Mount Kilimanjaro sees extremes of both cold and heat. At the summit, temperatures can drop to a typically frigid -10°C (14°F). Lower down the mountain, during the dry season (mid-June to October), temperatures can rise to around 27°C (81°F). But during the wet season (mid-March to mid-June) it can get as cool as 5°C (41°F).
Factors Contributing to Cold Temperatures
Mount Kilimanjaro experience is made more unpleasant by its high altitude and exposed location. Its summit is almost four times as high as Mt. Fuji in Japan, and the lack of vegetation or low clouds contribute to its frigid temperatures. Moreover, nocturnal temperatures start to plummet rapidly after sunset, with air temperatures dropping well below freezing at night.
Recent Temperature Increases
Recent studies suggest that there has been a significant change in the climate of Mount Kilimanjaro since the 1950s. Temperatures on the mountain have increased over the last 60 years, climbing from an average of -3.3°C (26.1°F) to -1.6°F (29.1°F) from 1953 to 2014. Despite this increase, Mount Kilimanjaro is still one of the coldest places in Africa.
Impact of Deforestation and Global Warming
Deforestation of the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro has led to a reduction in the amount of snow and ice cover on the mountain. This has had a direct impact on temperatures experienced at the summit, with periods of snow and ice cover becoming shorter and less frequent. Global warming is also believed to have played a role in the rise in temperatures, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) attributing the increase in temperatures to rising levels of atmospheric gases such as CO2 and methane.
Visiting Mount Kilmanjaro
If you’re planning on visiting Mount Kilimanjaro, it’s best to plan your trip for the dry season if you want to enjoy mild temperatures. While this is the more popular time to summit the mountain, it can be extremely cold and particularly windy. It is also important to consider the impact of altitude sickness, which is more likely to occur at higher altitudes.
We spoke to Dr. Steve Scharoun, an associate professor of human environmental dynamics at the University of Arizona who has studied the changing temperatures of Mount Kilimanjaro. According to Dr. Scharoun, while we can expect to see some long-term warming of the mountain, we can also expect to see fluctuations in temperatures due to climate variability. He also suggests that the greatest impact on temperatures will come from activities outside of mountain range, such as man-made deforestation.
Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies
Given the changing climate on Mount Kilimanjaro, it is important to consider strategies that can help to protect the mountain and its surrounding communities. One such strategy is tree planting, which can help to reduce the amount of heat lost at night by creating an insulating buffer against the cold air. This, in turn, can help to keep temperatures more moderate and reduce the effects of global warming on the area. Furthermore, the presence of trees on the slopes of the mountain can help to reduce the amount of soil erosion and keep the mountain’s glaciers and snow intact.
Another important strategy for protecting the mountain is educating local communities about the effects of climate change. This is particularly important for communities who rely on the mountain for food, water and income. Raising awareness about the effects of climate change and the importance of preserving the mountain’s ecology will help to ensure that its unique environment is maintained into the future.
Promoting Sustainable Tourism
Finally, to ensure the mountain’s long-term survival, it is important to promote and encourage sustainable tourism practices. This includes initiatives such as banning plastic consumption, sourcing local food and water, and encouraging responsible trekking behaviour. By promoting these practices, we can help to protect the mountain’s fragile ecosystem.