A team of scientists from the National Geographic Society has successfully installed a weather station at an altitude of 8,830m on Mt Everest, making it the highest weather station in the world. The multidisciplinary team, consisting of climate scientists and renowned climbers, spent nearly a month in the Everest region to complete the installation just below the summit point of 8,848.86m, according to the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM).
Powered by solar panels, the automatic weather monitoring station is expected to measure various meteorological parameters such as air temperature, wind speed and direction, air pressure, snow surface height changes, and incoming and outgoing radiation. This installation is part of the Perpetual Planet Extreme expedition organized by the National Geographic Society in April/May 2019, which saw a total of five weather stations installed at different altitudes on Mt Everest, including Balcony area (8,430m), South Col (7,945m), Camp II (6,464m), Everest Base Camp (5,315m), and Phortse (3,810m).
The team, led by climate scientist Baker Perry from Appalachian State University, also carried out maintenance on other stations, including the South Col station, during the expedition. Some members of the team, including climate scientists Tom Matthews and Ari Khadka, also scaled Mt Everest while installing the weather station. The team has now returned to Kathmandu after successfully completing their mission, as confirmed by DHM officials.
DHM's Director General, Kamal Ram Joshi, stated that details of the expedition's outcomes would be released next week. DHM has also requested the National Geographic team to directly transmit data to Nepal authorities instead of routing it through the National Geographic server, as was done previously.
Prior to the expedition, DHM and National Geographic signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to operate all five weather stations and provide near real-time information about mountain conditions. The National Geographic team will operate the stations until the end of 2025, after which the stations will be handed over to the Government of Nepal with technology transfer completed by 2026, as per the MoU.
In addition to the National Geographic expedition, a Chinese team has also installed an automatic meteorological monitoring station on Mt Everest from the northern side at an altitude of over 8,800m. Chinese media reports indicate that China has a total of eight weather stations on Mt Everest, with four stations exceeding 7,000m. The reason for installing the station at 8,800m instead of the summit is cited as unsuitable snow and ice conditions for fixing equipment, as explained by Zhao Huabiao, a researcher at the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research.
Scientists are currently evaluating satellite data to verify the claim of a weather station at 8,800m by China, according to sources.
This article originally appeared in the print edition of The Himalayan Times on May 19, 2022.