'Mount Kilimanjaro may become ice free by 2060'

The peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro - world's highest free-standing mountain - may be ice-free as soon as 2060, scientists have warned.

Researchers with NASA's Earth Observatory, have found that between 1912 and 2011, the mass of ice on the summit of the 19,341ft dormant stratovolcano in Tanzania decreased by more than 85 per cent.

Kimberly Casey, a glaciologist based at the US space agency's Goddard Space Flight Centre, who visited the mountain earlier this year, also noticed Kilimanjaro's north ice field had separated, the 'Daily Mail' reported.

The glacier had been developing a hole since the 70s, but this is the first year in which it had been seen to divide in two.

"We were able to walk on land or we could have even ridden a bicycle directly through the rift," Casey said.

Scientists now warn it's no longer a question of whether Kilimanjaro's ice will disappear, but when. Estimates vary, but several scientists predict it will be gone by 2060.

The views from the top of Mount Kilimanjaro are as surreal as they are spectacular.

After ascending through multiple ecosystems, including cropland, lush rainforest, alpine desert, and a virtual dead zone near the summit.

However, in the immediate foreground, ice dominates the view.

Looking north, a shelf-like block of ice with a sharp vertical cliff sits on an otherwise featureless, sand-covered plateau.

A second ice field spills off the edge of the plateau, down the mountain's southern face in the other direction.

The dry and cold air at the top of the mountain has sustained large quantities of ice for more than 10,000 years, despite Mount Kilimanjaro's location in the tropics.

At points, ice has completely surrounded the crater. Studies of ice core samples show that Kilimanjaro's ice has persisted through multiple warm spells, droughts, and periods of abrupt climate change.

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