Cloud hole over the Kilimanjaro

View from the space station ISS on the highest mountain in Africa

Cloud hole over Mount Kilimanjaro © Alexander Gerst, ESA / NASA, CC-by-nc-sa 2.0
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Like on the presentation plate: In this shot of the ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst Kilimanjaro lies in the middle of a big cloud hole. Although the highest mountain massif in Africa is still covered by snow and summit glaciers, its white cap has been dwindling for decades.

The Kilimanjaro stands lonely and majestic out of the savannah of Tanzania. It rises nearly 5, 000 meters from the surrounding landscape and is 5, 895 meters high from sea level. This mountain range was created by volcanic activity around 2.5 million years ago. Over time, a three-slot stratovolcano was formed by repeated eruptions: Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira.

Although Kilimanjaro is located in tropical latitudes, its crater plateau rises high enough to be covered with ice and snow almost all year round. At night, temperatures drop significantly below freezing. But since the beginning of the 20th century the glaciers are disappearing on the highest mountain in Africa. From nearly 12 square kilometers in 1912, the ice-covered area has shrunk to just 1.76 square kilometers by 2011 - that's more than 80 percent ice loss.

In this shot from July 23, 2018, the ice cap of Mount Kilimanjaro is particularly recognizable - bright white, it stands out from the surrounding dark mountain slopes. The cloud hole above the massif framed it like an oval window. The German ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst made this photo of aboard the International Space Station ISS. He writes: "The majestic Kilimanjaro .... One day I will climb it. "

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