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  Pico del Teide
  Jebel Toubkal
  Jebel Siroua
  Mount Cameroon
  Mount Stanley
  Mount Elgon
  Mount Kenya
  Mount Meru

Africa: Regional Map and Introduction

Volcanoes of East Africa and Central Africa #
    The volcanoes of Africa include some of the most famous ones in the world, such as Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya, huge isolated giants which dominate the landscape over hundreds of miles. For several million years, the continent of Africa has been tearing apart in East Africa along the Great African Rift Valley, and most of the dozens of volcanoes in Central and East Africa are produced by lava coming up through fissures caused by this rifting. Although they are most certainly not noted for skiing, nevertheless the highest mountains in Africa do have permanent snow and glaciers despite being located very close to the equator, and many of them have been skied. Although global warming, whatever its cause, has been rapidly reducing the snow and ice cover for the past century, these mountains should remain skiable (albeit barely so) for the next few decades. One can only hope that the global climate and temperature stabilizes before it is too late for the snow lovers.

Select a mountain from the clickable map above

    The rifting has produced not only the four dominant volcanoes of East Africa (Mounts Elgon, Kenya, Meru, and Kilimanjaro), but numerous other mountains as well. Farther west near the middle of the Rift Valley is the great volcanic cluster of the Virunga Mountains, with eight major volcanoes the tallest of which is Karisimbi. Just north of this group lies the mysterious and isolated mountain mass of the Ruwenzori, Africa's most alpine and glaciated mountains, capped by Mount Stanley. Although not at all volcanic, the Ruwenzori are a fault block (horst) raised vertically 2 miles (3 km) above the surrounding terrain by the same tectonic processes driving the rifting. The effects of the motion in the Great African Rift Valley even extend as far as the west coast of Africa, where the crust is cracking along numerous northeast-trending fissure systems. This has produced several more major volcanoes including the isolated seaside giant of Mount Cameroon, a match in size for any of the biggest volcanoes found in East Africa.

Canary Islands #
    Although grouped with Europe by some references (mainly because they are a Spanish province), the Canary Islands lie on the African Plate just off the Moroccan Coast, and so they must be grouped with Africa. All of the islands in the group are volcanic, rising up from the seafloor of the Atlantic Ocean at a depth of about 10000 ft (3000 m), and many of volcanoes which make up the seven major islands have been active within the past few thousand years. The cause of the volcanism here is hard to explain, since there is neither rifting nor subduction occurring nearby, but it is most likely due to a hot spot beneath the archipelago. This hotspot has produced some of the largest volcanoes on earth, including the island of Tenerife, topped by the symmetrical cone of Pico del Teide. Moist trade winds bring adequate moisture (and winter snowfall up high) to these islands despite their location just west of the Sahara Desert.

Atlas Mountains #
    The Atlas Mountains of Morocco are one of the major mountains groups in Africa, primarily a non-volcanic range thrust up by the pressure of the ongoing collision of the Eurasian and African Plates. Topped by numerous 13000 ft (4000 m) peaks such as Jebel Toubkal, the High Atlas is the only range in Africa which offers reliably good ski conditions, although only in winter and early spring. Just south of the crest of the Atlas (and unfortunately in its rain shadow) lies the ancient volcanic upland of Jebel Siroua, which offers a variety of scenic geologic features in addition to the possibility of winter ski tours during good snow years.

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Amar Andalkar   Seattle, WA, USA   <About the Author / Contact Me>
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