The disappearance means trouble for land-locked Uganda, which gets nearly half of its power from hydroelectricity, including the power plants that rely on steady water flow from the Rwenzori glaciers.

From the southern border of Germany to the highest peaks in Africa, glaciers around the world have served as moneymaking tourist attractions, natural climate records for scientists and beacons of beliefs for indigenous groups, the Associated Press reports.

With many glaciers rapidly melting because of climate change, the disappearance of the ice sheets is sure to deal a blow to countries and communities that have relied on them for generations — to make electricity, to draw visitors and to uphold ancient spiritual traditions.

The ice masses that formed over millennia from compacted snow have been melting since around the time of the Industrial Revolution, a process that has accelerated in recent years.

The retreat can be seen in Africa, on the border of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the jagged peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains jut into the sky above a green jungle. The peaks once held more than 40 glaciers, but fewer than half of them remained by 2005, and the melting continues. Experts believe the last of the mountains’ glaciers could disappear within 20 years.

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