Occam’s Razor and the Former Snows of Kilimanjaro

Occam’s Razor is often interpreted as “the least complicated answer is usually right.”

The Huffington Post has a post blaming global warming for the loss of snow on Mount Kilimanjaro. “The increase of Earth’s near surface temperatures, coupled with even greater increases in the mid- to upper-tropical troposphere, as documented in recent decades, would at least partially explain” the observations. The research, led by paleoclimatologist Lonnie Thompson of Ohio State University, was funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Maybe global warming is not the cause of the snow loss.  A paleoclimatologist will look at problems from a point of view that may not see other possibilities. (When you’re a hammer every problem looks like a nail.) According to at least two peer reviewed studies,  other researchers have put forward a more prosaic reason for Kilimanjaro ice going bye-bye: deforestation.

“Studies show local climate in mountain regions are impacted by deforestation at upwind locations….While the prior investigations have focused on the effect of low land deforestation on Tropical Montane Cloud Forests, low land deforestation also has the potential to impact alpine glaciers.”Impact of Upwind Land Cover Change on Mount Kilimanjaro

Another group of researchers noted the same root cause:

“Deforestation of the mountain’s foothills is the most likely culprit because without forests there is too much evaporation of humidity into outer space. The result is that moisture-laden winds blowing across those forests have become drier and drier.” — Nicholas Pepin of Britain’s Portsmouth University

Read the Guardian article

It’s worth noting again that deforestation is the opposite of forest harvesting: the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines deforestation as “the conversion of forest to another land use or the long-term reduction of tree canopy cover … Deforestation implies the long-term or permanent loss of forest cover. Such a loss can only be caused and maintained through a continued man-induced or natural perturbation.” (World Forest Resource Assessment in 2000, On Definitions Of Forest And Forest Change). [emphasis added]

Post to Twitter