Story 22. Kilimanjaro
By the middle of 1996 it was obvious to both Thermo and Dr. Key that the cooling trend spawned by the eruption of Mount Pinatubo was gone, and a warming trend had begun once again.
“Even some glaciers are receding,” Thermo reported back to Dr. Key in his lab at Mauna Loa, transmitting photographs taken with his eye-cameras. As he flew over the famous Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa, Thermo’s eyes snapped photos of the ice that had covered the upper portion of the volcano for decades.
“The views are breathtaking sir,” Thermo radioed to Dr. Key, “and as we have heard, much of this glacier appears to be melting too.”
Africa was always a sight to behold from above. This time around Thermo was unencumbered by his usual flying partners Fluffy and Puffy, so he was free to explore the mountain and the surrounding countryside. Thermo flew over animal preserves filled with giraffes, zebras and elephants and observed playful monkeys and colorful birds on the lower slopes of the mountain.
“Go ahead and enjoy the view,” Dr. Key said to Thermo, “but watch out for Carbo and his minions. As you know, they are still suspected of harassing and harming climate scientists around the world, and they would love to prevent scientists from looking at ice core samples from glaciers like the one you’re over.”
“Ten-four,” answered Thermo. “No sign of Carbo.”
What about Aaliyah and Elimu?” asked Dr. Key. The two humans were paleoclimatologists who had been on the mountain for weeks with their specialized equipment, drilling deep into the glacier to remove cores of ice. The couple planned to analyze the ice later, gathering information about what the Earth’s climate was like thousands of years earlier. Thermo was restricted from encountering most human adults, but Dr. Key had made an exception with these two.
“I think I see them!” Thermo announced, eyeballing two human figures and heading to a lower altitude to check them out.
Sure enough, it was Aaliyah and Elimu, just removing a long cylinder of ice drawn from a hole that took them weeks to drill. As Thermo hovered over the woman and the man, the two scientists stared up at the sky, not believing their eyes. They had never seen a flying thermometer before.
“Do I see what think I see?” asked Elimu, bewildered.
“That depends on what you think you see,” answered an equally stupefied Aaliyah. “But if it’s what I think I see, then yes, I see it!”
“It’s okay!” called Thermo from the air. “Dr. Key sent me to look after you as you do your work. I am keeping an eye out for Carbo.”
Once Aaliyah and Elimu were satisfied they weren’t dreaming, they introduced themselves and showed the flying instrument how they removed and stored the ancient ice cores.
“See those air bubbles inside the core?” Aaliyah said. “We’ll analyze that trapped air and see how much carbon dioxide it contains. Then we’ll be able to compare it to the CO2 concentrations in the air today. We’ll measure other gases in the ice to help us determine what temperatures were like thousands of years ago.”
Aaliyah and Elimu also showed Thermo some before-and-after photographs they had taken, illustrating how fast the glaciers on Kilimanjaro were shrinking.
“It has happened so quickly!” observed Thermo as he continued to scan the atmosphere for the villainous Carbo or one of his henchmen. There was no sign of them, and Thermo wondered aloud, “Maybe Carbo is getting tired of harassing scientists. Maybe he’s getting tired of worrying about me.”
Still, Thermo had an uneasy feeling as he and the two human scientists made their way down the slopes of Kilimanjaro with their ice cores. Was Carbo up to something that neither he nor Dr. Key could envision? The thermometer continued to ponder the question all the way down the mountain.
“What do you suppose Carbo is up to?” he finally asked Aaliyah and Elimu.
The two humans just shrugged.
In the real world, paleoclimatologists’ examinations of ice cores taken from the North Ice Field Glacier of Mount Kilimanjaro indicate that a continuous ice cap has been covering the north face of Kilimanjaro for over 11,000 years. Since 1912 more than 80% of the ancient ice cover on Kilimanjaro has disappeared. At the current rate of glacier melt, scientists predict that Kilimanjaro will become ice-free sometime by the middle of the 21st century. Climatologists have been watching and recording glaciers for several decades because they are a good barometer of warming or cooling trends. Measurements from Kilimanjaro have received the most press, and indicate that the Earth’s climate is warming at an increasingly high rate into the 21st century.
The Climate Guy
The text and artwork are copyright by Guy Walton. I would like to get this book published. Please drop me a note if you are willing to help.
My friend Alyssa Josue drew the art.
To see the rest of the World of Thermo stories click: http://www.guyonclimate.com/category/worldofthermo/
The Climate Guy