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UCL expedition to examine climate change in snowfields of the equator

Publication date: Mar 21, 2006 12:28:08 PM

In June of this year, an expedition led by researchers from University College London will examine the impact of climate change on the largest snowfield in tropical Africa. The expedition aims to study the Rwenzori mountain snowcaps which are rapidly disappearing.

The UCL team will work with researchers from Makerere University (Uganda), the Ugandan government and the University of Innsbruck (Austria) as part of the largest scientific expedition to the Rwenzori Mountains in more than 50 years. They will make the first detailed assessment of the condition of the glaciers in over 10 years, and will assess the rate at which they are receding. Recent work on the other snowcapped mountain of east Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro, suggests that its snowcap will disappear entirely within the next two to three decades, so this research is now critical.

The expedition, which is sponsored in part by the Royal Geographical Society and The Royal Society, will also seek to assess the impact of glacial recession on the alpine aquatic ecosystems (home to rare Afroalpine flora and fauna) and mountain streamflow upon which downstream communities rely for a year-round supply of water and generation of hydro-electric power. The team will also try to uncover the environmental history of the Rwenzori Mountains by looking at environmental indicators buried in mountain lake sediment and glacial ice. With this, the team hopes to improve our understanding of the causes of rapid environmental change that has occurred on the mountains over the last century.