Climate-glacier relationship on Mount Kenya


Climate-glacier relationship on Mount Kenya


A combined investigation of glacier history and multi-scale climate dynamics on tropical high mountains - from both field measurements and modelling - has the potential for revealing a sophisticated history of climate in the tropical mid-troposphere, where routine meteorological measurements are very rare.

Complementary to our glacier-climate studies on Kilimanjaro we propose to perform a glacier-climate study on Lewis Glacier, Mount Kenya. For Lewis Glacier, the most comprehensive tropical glacier data set is available and respective analyses promise to provide detailed information about post Little Ice Age glacier-climate interactions in a multi spatio-temporal scale. Whereas Kilimanjaro provides insight to atmospheric moisture related glacier and climate variations and changes, from Mount Kenya - that is 1000 m lower - we expect also information on air temperature variations and trends.

Conceptually, measured detailed short term and long term annual glacier mass balances - the first to be measured in field experiments, the latter available for 1979 to 1996 - provide the basis for optimising and evaluating a glacier mass balance model. By modelling mass balances from gridded atmospheric information an improved state of understanding in terms of enhanced time, space and process resolution can be achieved. In a next step, these improved mass balance series will be statistically related to large scale climate patterns and modes. For selected events and for classes of mass balance conditions meso-scale atmospheric dynamics on the mountain will be studied with a regional climate model. With the proposed project we expect to provide comprehensive insight to processes and multi-scale drivers that cause the growth and decay of glaciers on Mount Kenya.

Finally, we plan to merge findings from Kilimanjaro and from Mount Kenya toward a new state of understanding on climate over tropical East Africa, particularly in the mid troposphere.


Project Leader:

Rainer PRINZ

Funding Agencies:
FWF (grant Nr. P21288-N21)

Project Duration:
23/07/2009 to 23/12/2013



Gurgiser, W., B. Marzeion, L. Nicholson, M. Ortner, and G. KaserModeling energy and mass balance of Shallap Glacier, PeruThe Cryosphere7
Gurgiser, W., T. Mölg, L. Nicholson, and G. KaserMass balance model parameter transferability on a tropical glacierJournal of Glaciology59
MacDonell, S., C. Kinnard, T. Mölg, L. Nicholson, and J. AbermannMeteorological drivers of ablation processes on a cold glacier in the semi-arid Andes of ChileThe Cryosphere7
Nicholson, L., R. Prinz, T. Mölg, and G. KaserMicrometeorological conditions and surface mass and energy fluxes on Lewis glacier, Mt Kenya, in relation to other tropical glaciersThe Cryosphere7


Prinz, R., L. Nicholson, and G. KaserVariations of the Lewis Glacier, Mount Kenya, 2004-2012Erdkunde66


Prinz, R., A. Fischer, L. Nicholson, and G. KaserSeventy-six years of mean mass balance rates derived from recent and re-evaluated ice volume measurements on tropical Lewis Glacier, Mount KenyaGeophysical Research Letters38


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