Data from the weather stations and other new research conducted as part of National Geographic and Rolex’s Perpetual Planet Extreme Expedition to Mount Everest will help communities respond to climate risks that threaten the lives and livelihoods of the more than one billion people in the region.
Washington, D.C., and Geneva (June 13, 2019) From April to June 2019, an international team of scientists, climbers and storytellers, led by the National Geographic Society and Tribhuvan University and supported in partnership with Rolex, conducted a scientific expedition to Mount Everest, believed to be the most comprehensive single scientific expedition to the mountain in history. The multidisciplinary team installed the two highest weather stations in the world (at 8,430 meters and 7,945 meters), collected the highest-ever ice core (at 8,020 meters), conducted comprehensive biodiversity surveys at multiple elevations, completed the highest-elevation helicopter-based lidar scan, expanded the elevation records for high-dwelling species and documented the history of the mountain’s glaciers.
FILLING CRITICAL KNOWLEDGE GAPS
Studies have shown that the glaciers of the Hindu Kush–Himalaya, where Mount Everest is located, are rapidly disappearing due to increasing global temperatures. The extreme conditions of high-elevation mountain ranges have made studying the true impacts of climate and environmental changes nearly impossible. As a result, there are critical knowledge gaps about the history of these glaciers and about future impacts that their disappearance would have on the lives and livelihoods of the more than one billion people in the region who depend on the reliable flow of water these glaciers provide.
”Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing humanity and there is still much to learn about how it’s already altered the world, from the deepest parts of the ocean to its tallest mountains,” said Jonathan Baillie, executive vice president and chief scientist at the National Geographic Society. “By harnessing our 131-year history of exploration and venturing into some of the most extreme environments on the planet, we will fill critical data gaps on the world’s life support systems and drive solutions to assure that they can continue to fuel our future.”
With team members from eight countries, including 17 Nepali researchers, the expedition team conducted trailblazing research in five areas of science that are critical to understanding environmental changes and their impacts: biology, glaciology, meteorology, geology and mapping. Scientific results from the expedition will be analyzed and submitted for publication in the coming years, but initial outcomes include the following:
- Installation of the world’s two highest operating automated weather stations (8,430 meters and 7,945 meters), as well as three other weather stations on Mount Everest
- Collection of the world’s highest ice core (8,020 meters) and other ice cores from lower elevations
- Completion of the highest-elevation helicopter-based lidar scan
- Completion of the most detailed lidar scans and photogrammetric imaging of the Everest Base Camp area and the entire Khumbu Glacier ever completed
- Collection of water samples from seven glacial lakes for biodiversity assessment
- Collection of glacial lake sediment cores from Gokyo Valley lakes
- Surveys of biodiversity and wildlife in multiple high-elevation environments
- Installation of four biodiversity monitoring stations in the high Himalaya
More in-depth information about the initial scientific findings and their significance is here.
DOCUMENTING CHANGE THROUGH COMPELLING STORYTELLING
To draw attention to the direct consequences of climate change, National Geographic will also pair its unparalleled storytelling assets and reach with the sense of awe and wonder that Mount Everest inspires to connect this vital work to audiences around the globe. A team of photographers and filmmakers joined researchers on the mountain to capture the dedication and drama involved in researching and surviving on the planet’s tallest peak.
NationalGeographic.com and National Geographic magazine are publishing dispatches from journalist Freddie Wilkinson, who was embedded with the team, to provide a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into successfully completing a research expedition of this scale and scope.
A PARTNERSHIP FOR A PERPETUAL PLANET
The Everest expedition is part of National Geographic’s newly established Life at the Extremes program and is the first in a series of trailblazing expeditions, called Perpetual Planet Extreme Expeditions. These expeditions, supported by a renewed and expanded partnership between National Geographic and Rolex, aim to explore and better understand some of the most extreme environments on Earth. By combining National Geographic and Rolex’s shared history of exploration with science-based storytelling, the partnership aims to illuminate the impacts of climate change on our changing planet and equip communities with tools to bolster their resilience. The partnership is harnessing the expertise of scientists and explorers from around the world who are leaders in their fields.
The partnership aims to reveal new insights about the impacts of climate change on three major systems that are vital to life on Earth: mountains as the world’s water towers, rainforests as the planet’s lungs and the ocean as its cooling system. Data collected from the Perpetual Planet Extreme Expeditions in these environments will support new decision-making tools, called Perpetual Planet Extreme Indices, which will provide real-time and historical data on the factors that contribute to the health of these ecosystems. Additionally, National Geographic and Rolex will fund grants and fellowships for explorers working to implement and scale solutions to climate change impacts in mountain, rainforest and ocean environments.
You can follow updates from the Perpetual Planet Extreme Expedition: Everest and explore historical and new data about the role of Mount Everest as a water tower for the region at www.natgeo.com/everest.
For more on the Life at the Extremes program, you can visit www.natgeo.org/extremes.
- Access a full fact sheet outlining the scientific goals and accomplishments of the Perpetual Planet Extreme Expedition: Everest here.
- Meet the expedition team members here.
- Learn more about the partnership between National Geographic and Rolex here.
- Find photo assets for coverage of the expedition here.
National Geographic Society