Lewis Glacier of old

The other week I received a lovely email from Jens Kulbe, in which he included a photograph of the Lewis Glacier on Mt Kenya taken in 1971:

Just look at it! Almost into the lake! I have heard legend of people skiing on Lewis glacier, but it certainly looks like that was a more reasonable prospect back in 1971, though not under the snow conditions in Jens’ photo probably!

Its hard to visualise the change directly as I’ve not got a modern day photo from quite that location, but in a previous blog I showed a decade of glacier change, and reported that the glacier seemed to be splitting up. That is confirmed in an aerial view of the glacier from a Pleiades satellite image taken in  February 2016 – I reckon that rock bar would necessitate some decent aerial skills to clear it on skis:

Image: Pléiades PHR1B scene of Lewis Glacier 23.02.2016. Courtesy of M. Ladner and A. Heller (Institute of Geography, University of Innsbruck, Austria).

The best way I have to visualise the change since 1971 is to look at the map below made by Rainer Prinz in 2010. It should be noted that the current (2016) glacier, as shown in the satellite image above, is now considerably smaller that in the last mapped extent shown below (2010). Its just that we have not re-mapped it recently (working on other things!), but I’d estimate that the current terminus is about 500m horizontally distant from and 100m above the lake in Jens’ photograph.

Map: from Prinz, R., Fischer, A., Nicholson, L., Kaser, G. (2011) Seventy-six years of mean mass balance rates derived from recent and re-evaluated ice volume measurements on tropical Lewis Glacier, Mount Kenya. Geophysical Research Letters, 38, L20502, doi:10.1029/2011GL049208. [pdf]

About lindsey

Environmental scientist. I am glaciologist specialising in glacier-climate interactions to better understand the climate system. The point of this is to understand how glaciated envionments might change in the future - how the glaciers will respond and what the impact on associated water resources and hazard potential will be.
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