A Chinese expedition team led by scientists set up the world’s highest weather station on Mount Everest – known as Mount Qomolangma in China – at an altitude of 8,830 meters above sea level.
The team of 12 members carrying scientific research equipment left their temporary camp at an altitude of 8,300 meters at 3 am on May 4 and started the final stage, “summit moment,” establishing the station shortly before 1 pm.
The scientific research project on Everest named “Earth Summit Mission 2022” was launched on April 28, and 5 scientific research teams, 16 scientific research groups, and more than 270 researchers are part of the project, according to state broadcaster CCTV, which said the scientists are going to use advanced instruments and equipment to conduct research across a broad range of areas.
The weather station will be the first to use high-precision radar to measure the thickness of snow and ice on the world’s highest mountain peak. The team successfully tested the automatic station and conducted a transmission to show that the system was working.
The station is powered by solar panels and is designed to last for two years under harsh weather conditions. According to various Chinese media reports, it is equipped with a satellite communications system for data transmission, and the radio station has been coded to transmit every 12 minutes.
After reaching the peak, the scientific team also conducted observation and sampling missions. The expedition is also conducting studies to detect ice and snow thickness at the summit. The team has collected snow ice and rock samples at the altitudes of 5,800 meters and 8,300 meters.
“As professional scientific researchers, they are expected to do the summit sampling for the first time and perform tasks such as erecting a gradient weather station, ice-core drilling, and radar thickness measurement at the summit,” said Yao Tandong, leader of the Summit Mission in an exclusive interview with Xinhua before the mission
The expedition also intends to determine the pattern of climate change and study the variation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the extremely high altitudes of Mount Everest.
“From a scientific point of view, the changes in the climate and environment of the Tibetan Plateau can affect the whole world,” he said.
Significance of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau
Mount Everest is located on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, known as the roof of the world, the Earth’s third pole, and the water tower of Asia, as 10 major river basins start here and sustain billions of people.
Also, according to Yao, a Chinese Academy of Sciences member who specializes in studying glaciers, the plateau has biodiversity resembling a “miniature landscape of the Earth”, making it very significant from a research point of view.
“We believe we will show more discoveries and progress in the international arena and (China) will have a greater international voice in related scientific research fields,” Yao said.
Mount Everest is home to many weather stations that gather high-altitude weather data. According to CGTN, Beijing now has seven such stations that are operating between 5,200 meters and 8,300 meters.
The new station has now broken the previous world record made by the British and US scientists — Tom Matthews and Paul Mayewski, respectively when they established the Balcony weather station in 2019 on the south side of Everest at an altitude of 8,430 meters.
The station was installed as part of National Geographic and Rolex’s 2019 Perpetual Planet Extreme Expedition To Mount Everest.
Tom Matthews had said that the station could monitor fast and high-altitude winds known as the Subtropical Jet Stream, which have a global impact since they affect the movement of storms.
Furthermore, having weather stations at such high altitudes makes climbing safer, as roughly a quarter of deaths on Everest occur due to bad weather. Earlier, climbers had to rely on forecasts of Everest’s weather which used to be mere predictions based on models and there was no way of testing them; hence their accuracy was doubtful.
Disputes Over Mount Everest
Mount Everest is located on Nepal’s border with China. The height of the mountain was a subject of dispute between the two countries until it was finally put to rest in December 2020, with officials from both sides announcing the altitude of the highest peak, 8848.86 meters.
The state-owned CGTN also spurred controversy in May 2020 after claiming that Mount Everest was located in China’s Tibet. However, it later revised its claims saying that it is located on the Nepal-China border.
As per the border dispute agreement reached between China and Nepal in 1960, Mount Everest is divided into northern and southern parts. The former comes under the Chinese administration, while the latter is under Kathmandu.