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Going to Extremes: Installing the World’s Highest Weather Stations on Mount Everest

journal contribution
posted on 22.05.2020 by Tom Matthews, Lester Baker Perry, Inka Koch, Deepak Aryal, Arbindra Khadka, Dibas Shrestha, Kyler Abernathy, Aurora Elmore, Anton Seimon, Alex Tait, Sandra Elvin, Subash Tuladhar, Saraju Baidya, Mariusz Potocki, Sean Birkel, Shichang Kang, Tenzing Chogyal Sherpa, Ananta Gajurel, Paul Mayewski

As the highest mountain on Earth, Mount Everest is an iconic peak that offers an unrivalled natural platform for measuring ongoing climate change across the full elevation range of Asia’s water towers. However, Everest’s extreme environment challenges data collection, particularly on the mountain’s upper slopes, where glaciers accumulate mass and mountaineers are most exposed. Weather stations have operated on Everest before, including the world’s previous highest, but coverage has been sparse in space and time. Here we describe the installation of a network of five automatic weather stations (AWSs), including the two highest stations on Earth (8,430 m.a.s.l and 7,945 m.a.s.l) which greatly improves monitoring of this iconic mountain. We highlight sample applications of the new data, including an initial assessment of surface energy fluxes at Camp II (6,464 m.a.s.l) and the South Col (7,945 m.a.s.l), which suggest melt occurs at both sites, despite persistently below-freezing air temperatures. This analysis indicates that melt may even be possible at the 8,850 m.a.s.l summit, and prompts a re-evaluation of empirical temperature index models used to simulate glacier melt in the Himalaya that focus only on air temperature. We also provide the first evaluation of numerical weather forecasts at almost 8,000 m.a.s.l and use of model output statistics to reduce forecast error, showcasing an important opportunity to improve climber safety on Everest. Looking forward, we emphasize the considerable potential of these freely available data for understanding weather and climate in the Himalaya and beyond, including tracking the behavior of upper-atmosphere winds, which the AWS network is uniquely positioned to monitor.

History

School

  • Social Sciences

Department

  • Geography and Environment

Published in

Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society

Publisher

American Meteorological Society

Version

VoR (Version of Record)

Rights holder

© Copyright 2020 American Meteorological Society (AMS) http://www.ametsoc.org/CopyrightInformation

Publisher statement

This paper was accepted for publication in the journal Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society and the definitive published version is available at

Acceptance date

21/05/2020

ISSN

0003-0007

Language

en

Depositor

Dr Tom Matthews Deposit date: 22 May 2020

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