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Highest weather station in the Andes will help climate research


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At 19,000 feet above sea level on the Chilean mountain of Tupungato, Baker Perry and his fellow climbers were clobbered in the early morning hours by an unforecasted blizzard that pinned them in their tents with punishing winds and swirling snow. Perry, a climate scientist at Appalachian State University, was philosophical as he recalled it.

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“It’s part of the beauty of the mountains that it is so challenging. That’s one reason there’s not many stations up in some of these places,” says Perry. “We want to see it at its stormiest and at its most challenging as well. That’s part of the climate. We need to measure that.”

Perry is the co-leader of a team that in February braved a global pandemic and a two-week trek through dense snow to install a weather station just below the summit of Tupungato, a dormant volcano in the southern Andes, where Chile meets Argentina. Now the highest weather station in the Southern and Western hemispheres, the tool will help scientists understand how rapidly this region’s climate is changing. The expedition was organized by the National Geographic Society and supported by Rolex.

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With data on temperature, wind speed, and snowfall, scientists can better understand how central Chile and the country’s capital of Santiago will fare as climate change exposes the region to more drought—like the historic one it’s in right now—while shrinking the mountain glaciers and snowpack that act as its water towers.

“The stakes are really high now,” says team member Tom Matthews, a climate scientist at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom. “There are millions of people living downstream of these water towers. They are part of this system we know very little about in terms of how it may respond as the climate warms.”

006_NGSChile2021_20210225_5808.jpg?w=636 Source: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/highest-weather-station-in-andes-will-help-search-for-climate-change-answers-perpetual-planet

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