More proof that Kilimanjaro’s problems are man-made; but not what some think it is

More proof positive that land use change has more to do with Kilimanjaro’s diminishing snowfall (due to reduced evapotranspiraton of surrounding land) than climate change. But, will we ever see Al Gore or Dr. Lonnie Thompson say anything other than “it was AGW that did it”? Doubtful. Still I keep printing these studies on Kilimanjaro and land use change in hopes that someday, they and the media will get a clue.

Kilimanjaro 1993, left and in 2000, right Image: NASA

From Dr. Roger Pielke Sr.:

New Study “Land Use Change Impacts On Regional Climate Over Kilimanjaro” By Fairman Jr. Et Al 2011

There is a new paper which addresses an interesting question on the role of land use/land cover change in the vicinity of Mount Kilimanjaro on the climate in this region. The paper is

Fairman, J. G., Jr., U. S. Nair, S. A. Christopher, and T. Mölg (2011), Land use change impacts on regional climate over Kilimanjaro, J. Geophys. Res., 116, D03110, doi:10.1029/2010JD014712

and the abstract reads

“Glacier recession on Kilimanjaro has been linked to reduction in precipitation and cloudiness largely because of large‐scale changes in tropical climate. Prior studies show that local changes in land cover can also impact orographic cloudiness, precipitation, and terrain‐generated circulation patterns. This study uses the Regional Atmospheric Modeling System to simulate dry season orographic cloudiness, rainfall, and orographic flow patterns over Kilimanjaro for current deforested and reforested land cover scenarios. The simulations for current land cover show satisfactory performance compared to surface meteorology and satellite‐observed cloudiness. Clouds occur less frequently in response to deforestation, with the magnitude of decrease increasing with deforestation. On the windward side, cloud liquid water path (LWP) and precipitation both show decreases at lower elevations (∼1000–2000 m) and increases at higher elevations (2000–4000 m) in response to deforestation. This pattern is caused by decreased aerodynamic resistance, leading to enhanced wind speeds and convergence at higher elevations. On the lee regions, LWP deficits found in deforested simulations coincide with regions of reduced moisture while precipitation increased slightly at lower elevations (1000–1800 m) and decreased at higher elevations (1800–4000 m). Kilimanjaro offers less obstruction to background airflow, and reduced moisture transport to the lee side is found for deforested conditions, causing reduced LWP and rainfall. However, land use change has little effect on cloudiness and rainfall at elevations in excess of 4000 m and is not expected to impact glaciers in the summit zone of Kilimanjaro during the dry season. The effect in other seasons requires further investigation.”

The conclusions read

This study utilized numerical model simulations to investigate the impact of land cover changes at lower elevations of Kilimanjaro on the regional climate of the area. RAMS was used to simulate atmospheric conditions for July 2007, assuming current, deforested, and forested land cover scenarios. The findings from the comparison of these simulations can be summarized as follows.

1. Comparison of RAMS simulations for current land use conditions against surface meteorological observations and satellite observations of cloudiness show satisfactory performance of RAMS over the study region.

2. The RAMS simulations show that deforestation at lower elevations of Kilimanjaro lead to a decrease in the frequency of cloud occurrence at all elevations. The cloud liquid water path decreases in response to deforestation except at higher elevations on the windward side where it increases. Reforestation has the opposite effect, increasing frequency of occurrence of clouds at all elevations, increases in cloud liquid water path except at higher elevation on the windward side where it decreases.

3. Precipitation decreases at low elevations and increases at midelevations on the windward side in response to deforestation. On the leeward side, precipitation decreases at midelevations, while there is a very small increase at lower elevations. The magnitude of differences increases with the extent of deforestation.

4. Flow diversion values computed for the different scenarios also show that obstruction caused by Kilimanjaro is enhanced when the lower elevations areas are reforested.

5. Surface moisture patterns are also altered because of changes in terrain flow, with reforestation increasing moisture transport to the lee side of the mountain compared to current vegetation and deforestation.

6. While differences in surface moisture contributes to decrease in frequency of occurrence in cloudiness, changes in flow pattern caused by reduced aerodynamic roughness play an important role. When the lower‐elevation regions are deforested, Kilimanjaro offer less obstruction to background flow, and the resulting increase in flow around the mountain causes reduced moisture transport to the lee side, causing reduced cloud liquid water path and precipitation. On the windward side, the increase in wind speed directed parallel to the topographic gradient at higher elevations, caused by reduced aerodynamic roughness in upwind areas, leads to enhanced surface convergence, cloud liquid water path, and precipitation.

7. Lack of precipitation at the peak during the period of study prevents making conclusions about potential impacts on precipitation at that level. Further study is required to investigate the possibility of such effects occurring during other seasons.

This study addresses only the impact of deforestation on one dry season month. There are no compelling reasons for expecting the physical processes that cause the changes in clouds and precipitation to be substantially different if the analysis is extended to include the dry season month of July from other years. However, further study that extends the analysis to other seasons is required to establish the overall impact of land use change on the higher‐elevation climate of Kilimanjaro.

This is yet another important study which documents the significant role of human alterations of the  landscape on the climate.

Here are some previous articles:

OSU’s Dr. Lonnie Thompson pushes gloom and doom, still thinks the snows of Kilimanjaro are melting due to global warming

Oh no, not this Kilimanjaro ice rubbish again!

Gore wrong on Kilimanjaro snow: Its the trees and “freezer burn”


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38 Responses to More proof that Kilimanjaro’s problems are man-made; but not what some think it is

  1. TERRY46 says:

    My question is what does it look like now?I mean isn’t it interesting how they show the year 93 then stop at 2000.And that’s just after a big La Nina ,98 but that was 11 years ago .

  2. Al Gored says:

    Yes, sure, but The Warming forced those people to use that land that way, so really, these details do not diminish the urgent need to tax everyone. A few conferences in Bali – no, been there, done that beach – I mean Monaco would verify that.

    The scientology is settled!

    [sarc]

  3. David Larsen says:

    How can land use effect anything? A hundred years ago there was hardly no cement in urban areas so the ground had more percability and run off was not that severe. Now, in large urban areas rain run off is gushing and flooding streams and rivers that much faster. What was probably the 50 year flood plain 100 years ago is now a 20 year flood plain. What a picturesque view of the river. How come my basement floods every 20 years now?

  4. Stephen Richards says:

    It’s still rubbish. It’s a model for christ’s sake!!! Models don’t predict, solve prove anything.

  5. James Sexton says:

    The alarmists are getting boring. Didn’t the skeptics debunk the Kilimanjaro meme and identify land use as being the problem a couple of years ago?

  6. Jay says:

    On the right (2000) picture, you can see the de-forested areas at the top compared to the left picture.
    -Jay

  7. crucilandia says:

    it has happened before

    Is the decline of ice on Kilimanjaro unprecedented in the Holocene?
    Kaser et al. (2010)
    Abstract
    Glaciers on Kilimanjaro’s highest peak, Kibo, are currently regarded as a persistent feature of the Holocene. Here we synthesize all available measurements, observations, and our understanding of current processes on Kibo – gained from intensive research over the past decade – to formulate an alternative hypothesis about the age of these ice fields. This suggests a shorter, discontinuous history of the tabular-shaped glaciers on Kibo’s plateau, where typical ‘life cycles’ of the ice may last only a few hundred years. If life cycles overlap, they are likely the cause of the observed steps in the plateau glaciers. Thus, it is likely that ice has come and gone repeatedly on Kibo’s summit plateau, throughout the Holocene. Such a cyclicity is supported by lake-derived proxy records.

    Supporting paper
    The Shrinking Glaciers of Kilimanjaro: Can Global Warming Be Blamed?
    The Kibo ice cap, a “poster child” of global climate change, is being starved of snowfall and depleted by solar radiation

    Phillip W. Mote, Georg Kaser

    a combination of factors other than warming air—chiefly a drying of the surrounding air that reduced accumulation and increased ablation—as responsible for the decline of the ice on Kilimanjaro since the first observations in the 1880s. The mass balance is dominated by sublimation, which requires much more energy per unit mass than melting; this energy is supplied by solar radiation.

    These processes are fairly insensitive to temperature and hence to global warming. If air temperatures were eventually to rise above freezing, sensible-heat flux and atmospheric long-wave emission would take the lead from sublimation and solar radiation. Since the summit glaciers do not experience shading, all sharp-edged features would soon disappear. But the sharp-edged features have persisted for more than a century. By the time the 19th-century explorers reached Kilimanjaro’s summit, vertical walls had already developed, setting in motion the loss processes that have continued to this day.

  8. Tom in Florida says:

    I don’t know if these are stock pictures. It seems quite some time ago these two photos showed up on WUWT and there was discussion about the background land showing different patterns of green and brown indicating one taken in rainy season the other in dry season.

  9. Katherine says:

    Nice, except it’s still based on a model. Now if those simulations were backed up by observation, it would be more convincing.

  10. Richard Keen says:

    Nice article, but the picture comparing Kilimanjaro in 1993 with 2000 is, shall we say, misleading. It was originally posted on NASA’s Earth Observatory site, http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=3054
    but as the note on the link says, the following paragraph was added three years later to clarify the deceptive content of the article:
    “It should be noted that the differences in the summit’s appearance in these scenes are due in large part to seasonal variations in snow cover. It is not possible to distinguish seasonal snow from ice in these images, so they cannot be used as an indication of the rate of the loss of ice.”
    Actually, even that additional paragraph doesn’t tell the real story. The first image was compiled right after one of the wettest Januaries around Kilimanjaro, with 3 times the normal precipitation, while the second image followed a completely rainless/snowless January. The snow cover on the first image resulted from one or two heavy snowfalls. So it’s not seasonal differences being shown; it’s the effect of a storm – weather, not climate, as they say.
    NASA’s clarification did not keep Gavin Schmidt from using the image in his book, “Climate Change: picturing the science”.
    The quoted precipitation data is from the tables in the appendix of:
    “A Hydrological Study Concerning the. Southern Slopes of Mt Kilimanjaro,. Tanzania”, 2003. by Paul Christen Røhr
    http://ntnu.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:124817/FULLTEXT01

  11. Ian W says:

    If deforestation affects things so severely, one wonders what the effects of all the windfarms are on the local climate.

  12. tokyoboy says:

    I think the climate science of KIlimanjaro was settled years ago on the basis of deforestration/humidity decrease culminating in ice sublimation.

  13. Steve says:

    It does not look so good recently either according to Google Maps. Not sure when this image was taken, but probably within the last few years.

    http://maps.google.com/maps?q=mt.+kilimanjaro&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&ie=UTF8&hl=en&hq=&hnear=Mt+Kilimanjaro,+Moshi+Rural,+Kilimanjaro,+Tanzania&t=h&z=11

  14. Rick Maschek says:

    Ditto David Larsen. My house was the last on a dirt desert road twenty years ago. In the last three years, they put in an 80 acre development and essentually paved the ground the rain had previously soaked into (their own perk test showed 3-5 inches). Now when it rains we get flooded and that water adds to 200 square miles of other development that eventually all comes together to flood the town.
    People are told it’s Global Warming/Climate Change and they believe it because it never happened before and the developers and government in off the hook.
    ps The precip has been normal here the past 20 years that I’ve lived here.

  15. Watson says:

    I notice you assert that Lonnie Thompson claims it’s ALL due to warming, when in fact all his observations suggest is that the disappearance of the glaciers has accelerated in recent years (post 2000), due to melting. Isn’t it possible that the reduction of the icecap is due to a ‘combination’ of evaporation and melting? Does that break some hermetically sealed divide between sceptic and warmist?

  16. Phil R says:

    Steve says:
    February 23, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    It does not look so good recently either according to Google Maps. Not sure when this image was taken, but probably within the last few years.

    http://maps.google.com/maps?q=mt.+kilimanjaro&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&ie=UTF8&hl=en&hq=&hnear=Mt+Kilimanjaro,+Moshi+Rural,+Kilimanjaro,+Tanzania&t=h&z=11

    February 1, 2003. according to Google Earth.

  17. Jim K says:

    On the west shore of Maui there is an island Lanai. I read a few years ago that it was a dry island in 1700′s and James Cook determined that the bare slopes 3300′ wasn’t catching the rain clouds. Cook planted pines on the slopes and within a decade the clouds would hang over the island. The island after that was called the pineapple island
    as most of the land was growing pineapple. I have many photos of the island and most days there is a ring of clouds around the peaks. The pine are called Cooks Pine.There is a dry area on the south west side called Garden of the gods. Maybe they knew something then that we don’t? I’m quoting this by memory as I read this in a tour book a while ago..

  18. An Inquirer says:

    Here are a couple of pictures from 2010:
    From February 2010: http://www.kilimanjaro-2010.com/
    From December 2010: http://www.daylife.com/topic/Mount_Kilimanjaro

    Proving nothing except that there is still snow there and looking better than the NASA 2000 picture.

  19. Gary Krause says:

    Interesting that I have just been looking at some photos and post cards my father (a TBM aviator who covered the occupation of Japan) had in his WWII scrapbook that show the mountain totally void of white stuff. Other photos show the typical scene of whipcream topping.

  20. Mike says:

    Your headline title is correct or at least imprecise. Instead of “More Proof that…”, a better title would be “More evidence that …”.

    If you have proof you don’t need more. Empirical sciences are based on weighing evidence. Proving things is what mathematician do.

    This Time Magazine story gives a balanced view of the debate in 2009. I don’t know which view is the dominate one among scientists. It could be both local and global factors are involved. It is well known that climate change, aka AWG, is the dominate factor in the world wide retreat of the cryosphere.

  21. tokyoboy says:

    Mike says: February 23, 2011 at 9:30 pm
    “…….It is well known that climate change, aka AWG, is the dominate factor in the world wide retreat of the cryosphere.”

    Sorry I don’t think so. What I know is simply there are AGW-funded people who say so.

  22. Peter Plail says:

    They will have to believe it now. It is not as if this is based on evidence, it its a real computer model./sarc

  23. George Lawson says:

    How do we know that the two pictures were taken on the same date each year, and why do they not publish the 2010 picture on the same date of that year to give us the true up-to-date position? One has to be suspicious of a 10 year old picture.

  24. John Marshall says:

    There were worries about Kilimanjaro in the 19th century and the first serious study was in the 1920′s. There have been many since then and all serious peer reviewed papers show the cause to be de-forestation reducing precipitation on the summit due to the reduction of evapotranspiration. Temperatures there have been obstinately stayed below zero so warming is not the cause.
    For glaciers so survive there must be precipitation.

  25. Jimbo says:

    TERRY46 says:
    February 23, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    My question is what does it look like now?I mean isn’t it interesting how they show the year 93 then stop at 2000.And that’s just after a big La Nina ,98 but that was 11 years ago .

    Interesting point! I have had a look through Nasa’s Earth Observatory and they seem to have stopped at 2004 despite their numerous satellites and the shuttle. I have found some more recent images (though it was not easy) Google Earth, also here, here,
    here [scroll down there]

  26. braddles says:

    The snow on Kili comes and goes with incredible rapidity. It sublimes rather than melts, under the tropical sun. I climbed the mountain in 1992, and I have photos showing it in its ’1993′ state and then 2 days later in its ’2000′ state.

  27. eadler says:

    The article, describing the effects of land use, says specifically that it hasn’t affected the ice fields at the very top, i.e. the glaciers. The height of Kilimanjaro is 5895 m. The abstract clearly says:

    However, land use change has little effect on cloudiness and rainfall at elevations in excess of 4000 m and is not expected to impact glaciers in the summit zone of Kilimanjaro during the dry season. The effect in other seasons requires further investigation.

    It seems that land use is associated with changes below 4000 m, but that does not apply to glaciers of Kilimanjaro. Currently the glaciers are limited to areas above 4500 M in elevation. The evidence is that they never were extended much below 4000m. Check out the following paper -The glacier map is on page 14:
    http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/p1386g/africa.pdf

    The controversy has been about loss of glaciers at the summit of Kilimanjaro.

    http://articles.cnn.com/2009-11-02/tech/kilimanjaro.glaciers_1_glaciers-mount-kilimanjaro-lonnie-thompson?_s=PM:TECH

    It is clear that this paper indicates that land use changes are not responsible for loss of glaciers at the summit.

    REPLY: Wrong. You are cherry picking, Mr. Adler:

    7. Lack of precipitation at the peak during the period of study prevents making conclusions about potential impacts on precipitation at that level. Further study is required to investigate the possibility of such effects occurring during other seasons.

    i.e. there’s been so much deforestation that now they can’t observe precip at higher levels in a single study because there’s not enough moisture imparted by local evapotranspiration for orographic induced precip to continue much beyond the average LCL. Most of the water content is already precipitated by the time it reaches the summit. Thus, there’s no addition to the snowpack, and thus the glaciers at higher level gradually sublimate away. In all the photos you see of intrepid scientist and data archiving refusnik Thompson, he’s standing next to spires that are clearly the result of sublimation processes, not melting. Yet despite overwhelming evidence that land use change is the biggest factor, you, he and many others cling to the belief that this is about temperature, when its actually about land use change, evapotranspiration, sublimation, and the LCL. – Anthony

    - Anthony

  28. Jacob says:

    Uh, not to throw a bomb into this parade of jubilant celebration, but the abstract reads (and the paper is consistent with), “However, land use change has little effect on cloudiness and rainfall at elevations in excess of 4000 m and is not expected to impact glaciers in the summit zone of Kilimanjaro during the dry season. The effect in other seasons requires further investigation.” Thus, while this certainly doesn’t prove Warmists right (the other seasons have yet to be tested, and the wet season may be more significant), it is not showing how land-use has led to glacial retreat. One must be careful in ascribing more to a paper than is actually there. I agree, models are not perfect, these results are not absolute, and certainly there are older studies that support the land-use conclusion, but you just can not justify that from this paper itself. Just sayin.

    REPLY: See my response to Eadler above – Anthony

  29. eadler says:

    Jacob,
    You are a scholar, and are elevating the discussion here significantly!

  30. Smokey says:

    I’ll believe someone like braddles, who has actually been there, to a bunch of grant hogging scientists writing from the safety of their ivory tower. Read between the lines and you can see they’ve already got their hand out for more tax money: “The effect in other seasons requires further investigation.” And with more grant money I’m sure they’re ready to take up the challenge.

    The frantic arm-waving by the alarmist crowd over what is, if anything, simply natural variability, is always fun to observe. Do they really believe that CO2 is gobbling up the glacier? And that CO2 picks only certain glaciers to eat? Or that a fraction of a degree warming over a century and a half is the cause?? These folks have gone completely off the deep end.

    Thanx to Jimbo for the pics. Hey, I can cherry-pick as well as the CAGW promoters at NASA:

    click1
    click2
    click3 [looks more like the 1993 pic, doesn't it?]

  31. eadler says:

    Eadler said :
    It is clear that this paper indicates that land use changes are not responsible for loss of glaciers at the summit.

    REPLY: Wrong. You are cherry picking, Mr. Adler:

    7. Lack of precipitation at the peak during the period of study prevents making conclusions about potential impacts on precipitation at that level. Further study is required to investigate the possibility of such effects occurring during other seasons.

    i.e. there’s been so much deforestation that now they can’t observe precip at higher levels in a single study because there’s not enough moisture imparted by local evapotranspiration for orographic induced precip to continue much beyond the average LCL. Most of the water content is already precipitated by the time it reaches the summit. Thus, there’s no addition to the snowpack, and thus the glaciers at higher level gradually sublimate away. In all the photos you see of intrepid scientist and data archiving refusnik Thompson, he’s standing next to spires that are clearly the result of sublimation processes, not melting. Yet despite overwhelming evidence that land use change is the biggest factor, you, he and many others cling to the belief that this is about temperature, when its actually about land use change, evapotranspiration, sublimation, and the LCL. – Anthony

    - Anthony

    I will admit to an overstatement. Jacob’s statement is more accurate.
    The paper does not say anything specifically about the causes of glacier decline. They simulated the dry period, when no precip occurs at the elevations of the glaciers. Their paper doesn’t prove that land use changes are responsible for the decline of Kilimanjaro’s glaciers. It indicates that during the dry season, there is no precipitation at that level, before or after the land use changes. They say:

    This study uses the Regional Atmospheric Modeling System to simulate dry season orographic cloudiness, rainfall, and orographic flow patterns over Kilimanjaro for current deforested and reforested land cover scenarios.

    If you argue against cherry picking, it seems incongruous to claim that a single picture, proves that sublimation is what is reducing the size of glaciers.

    However, I don’t dispute that sublimation is the major means of glacier mass loss. What is the issue is what causes the mass gain to go below the mass loss.
    Is it reduction in precip due to land use, or changes in the circulation of the Indian Ocean, which could be related to global warming. The paper above is silent on that.

    Here is an excellent paper which provides some excellent background on this controversy. The author doesn’t agree with Thompson and Gore, but does cite global warming as the culprit in the disappearance of the bulk of the world’s alpine glaciers.

    http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/pub/2007/4/the-shrinking-glaciers-of-kilimanjaro-can-global-warming-be-blamed/8

    REPLY:No claim (other than yours) was made about a single picture. Again, cherry picking. Sorry, we aren’t talking about other glaciers, don’t try to change the subject when you’ve been pinned. The article is about Kilimanjaro, not alpine glaciers. Just admit you’ve boobed and move on – Anthony

  32. daniel says:

    Not sure whether this study adds much to previous Pepin paper in 2010 (WUWT 09-28-10) !

  33. eadler says:

    REPLY:No claim (other than yours) was made about a single picture. Again, cherry picking. Sorry, we aren’t talking about other glaciers, don’t try to change the subject when you’ve been pinned. The article is about Kilimanjaro, not alpine glaciers. Just admit you’ve boobed and move on – Anthony

    The paper hasn’t shown that land use is responsible for the lack of precipitation during the wet period, as Jacob and I pointed out. There are two possibilities mentioned in the literature, besides Thompsons idea, land use and changes in the Indian Ocean.

  34. Mike D. says:

    Dear Anthony,

    I am chagrined. Last month you hooted at and ridiculed a paper that hypothesized that curtailment of human land use practices (via mass slaughters by Genghis Khan and/or disease epidemics in the post-Columbian Americas) might have effected the climate. Yet now you cite as “proof” models (yes models) that finger anthropogenic “deforestation” for impacting climate.

    Can human land use activities alter albedos, cloud formation, precipitation, temperatures? If so, then sudden elimination (due to sudden massive human population decline) of land uses (such as landscape-scale anthropogenic fire) might possibly affect climate, too, by reversing or mitigating the prior impacts.

    B follows A, n’est-ce pas?

  35. Threepwood says:

    Just a different perspective-
    If snows were melting on Kilimanjaro due to higher temps, this would be evidence
    against AGW.
    Going back to basics, whether the overall ave global temp is going up or down is statistically irrelevant: If dinosaurs still walked the Earth today- what would be the odds that a warming trend occured in the last 100 years? 50%
    What we are looking for re. AGW due to GHG is a signature of extra warmth, regardless of any current direction in natural variation.
    Nobody disputes that this signature would be relatively higher trending temps at both poles- due to the GH effect being a form of insulation.

    While the arctic has warmed, Antarctica has been flat to cooling since the sat. records begam in ’79. Any warming trend at the equator (e.g. Kilimanjaro) only widens this discrepancy and provides further evidence that any ave. warming is not AGW related.

  36. John Whitman says:

    Moderater,

    Since the Test page does not allow me to comment (there in no comment dialog box) then I will test my html tage nested imbedding here.

    My test follows:

    Another penetrating point by Horner on the GWPF webpage (emphasis mine):

    ”So, were Penn State’s investigators staggeringly incompetent, willfully ignorant, or knowingly complicit?”

    “Did Mann merely let investigators so grossly misrepresent what he told them in order to paint him as less culpable than he admitted to them? Did he have some reason to believe they would let him get away with that non-answer?

    “Does instructing someone to delete records violate any U.S. laws?”

    “Of course, Mann might just say that his colleague is a liar. Get some popcorn.”

  37. mike says:

    This is complete BS. Here in the Pacific Northwest we actually send humans up to the mountain and they measure the snow pack using a screw-tube, not through remote sensing like aereal photographs.
    We cannot know exactly what man’s effects on climate are since the climate is always in a state of flux, with no “zero” or “base”to rely upon. Since the earth is big heat exchanger, moving warmer air masses from the tropics to the poles and vice versa, the amount of error in models is unsustainable.
    But do not fool yourself, man has the capability to make this earth uninhabitable, and no tax cuts can change that fact.

    REPLY: sage advice from a foods expert. Yep

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