Glaciers on African Mountain Range Almost Gone

Mountain glaciers in equatorial Africa are on their way to disappearing within two decades, a team of British researchers reports.

Located in the Rwenzori Mountains on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the glaciers will be gone within 20 years if current warming continues, the researchers report in this week's online edition of Geophysical Research Letters.

The researchers blamed an increase in air temperatures in recent decades for contributing to the decline of the ice fields.

"Recession of these tropical glaciers sends an unambiguous message of a changing climate in this region of the tropics," said lead researcher Richard Taylor of the University College of London, Department of Geography.

A century ago the Rwenzori glaciers were surveyed at 2.5 square miles. The area covered by glaciers halved between 1987 and 2003 and is now down to about 0.4 square mile, the researchers said.

They said the glaciers are expected to disappear within the next 20 years if present trends continue.

Also known as the Mountains of the Moon, the glaciers on Rwenzori were first reported to Europeans by the ancient Greek geographer Ptolemy, who said the Nile was supplied by snowcapped mountains at the equator in Africa.