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The current glacial retreat on Mount Kilimanjaro began around 1880, when the glaciers had a maximum extent of around 20 square kilometers.   Climate changes in the region around 1880 coincides with noticeable reductions in levels of lakes in East Africa, and consequent lower atmospheric moisture content.   In the 2 decades prior to 1880, the area was noted for higher levels of humidity, with associated higher lake levels and greater glacial extent.

Some current research supports the idea that global warming is not the cause of the glacial retreat, but rather a lack of moisture reaching the area due to worldwide climatic interactions, particularly due to apparent links between Indian Ocean sea surface temperatures and lack of precipitation in Africa.  Recent studies of the area provide evidence, such as permafrost extending 100 meters below the current extent of Arrow Glacier (elevation 4,700 meters) supports the idea that higher amounts of precipitation on Kilimanjaro could support glacial growth.

The current extend of glaciers on Kibo’s summit (the sole peak with glaciers) are approximately 2.6 square kilometers in area.   Given the current climatic situation, it is expected that the glaciers on Kibo will disappear, leaving Kilimanjaro without glaciers for the first time in 11,000 years.   ( Kaser, et al 2003)