National Geographic Society Newsroom Press Releases

Highest Weather Station in the Tropical Andes Installed Near the Summit of Nevado Ausangate in Peru

Data from the weather station will aid local and scientific communities in monitoring the impact of climate change on critical water tower

Washington, D.C. (August 3, 2022) Today, the National Geographic Society announced the placement of a weather station just below the summit of the Nevado Ausangate at 6,349m/ 20,830ft — now the highest weather station in the tropical Andes. This effort marks a significant milestone in the 2022 National Geographic and Rolex Amazon Perpetual Planet Expedition, a two-year exploration of the Amazon River Basin spanning the Andes to the Atlantic.  

The tropical high Andes of southern Peru contain essential water towers that support nature and human communities from the glacier margins to the Amazon basin. On July 25th, National Geographic Explorers Baker Perry and Tom Matthews, supported by a local Peruvian Quechua team and female Bolivian climbing experts “the Cholitas Escaladoras” worked together to climb Nevado Ausangate – the highest peak in southern Peru – to investigate important meteorological processes driving the climate and glacier behavior and to install a weather station near its peak.

“Nevado Ausangate is one of the most critical mountains in the high Andes as it serves as the primary freshwater source for Andean and downstream ecosystems,” said Perry. “It is essential that we use weather observations from the highest peaks in the world to better understand the impacts that climate change is having on local and global communities. The changes happening on Ausangate are especially important in understanding the fluctuations and adaptations of the entire Amazon River Watershed.”

The new weather station collects near real-time meteorological data such as temperature, precipitation, humidity, radiation, and snow depth, all of which will aid local governments and the international scientific community in observing the impacts of climate change on critical water resources that affect local communities. 

The expedition team also conducted in-situ monitoring of the atmosphere and analyzed snow-pack properties, obtaining direct measurements of snow water equivalent from the snow-pack. As part of the snow assessment, the team collected samples to screen for microplastics in this remote and relatively pristine region. If present, it would likely indicate long distance atmospheric transport – microplastics carried by winds from far away. 

Local organizations and institutions including Universidad Nacional de San Antonio de Abad del Cusco (UNSAAC), Servicio Nacional de Meteorología e Hidrología (SENAMHI) del Perú and Universidad Mayor de San Andrés (Bolivia) were critical partners in this expedition.

​​”The Nevado Ausangate is the source of life that we have for this region of Cusco,” said Santos Huaman, Mayor of Chilca, the Peruvian township encompassing much of the Ausangate Valley. “This new weather station will help us to understand how much snow is melting, why, and how we recover it. It’s extremely important to our community.”

National Geographic Explorer Ruthmery Pillco joined Perry and Matthews for part of the expedition to examine the headwaters in Ausangate and investigate how they impact the cloud forest where her research on Andean bears takes place. The team was also joined by National Geographic Explorer and Photographer Tom Peschak who documented their efforts.

“The collaboration between Explorers to study all facets of the Amazon River Basin is critical to deepen our understanding of the Amazon’s dynamic environment,” said Nicole Alexiev, Vice President of Science and Innovation Programs at National Geographic Society. “Efforts like Baker, Tom and Ruth’s to study Ausangate’s critical ecosystem, coupled with Tom Peschak’s unparalleled storytelling are at the forefront of our partnership with Rolex. Our ultimate goal is to uniquely illuminate the critically important role this region plays in stabilizing the health of the planet while elevating solutions to ensure its protection.”

The Nevado Ausangate weather station complements the highest weather station installed in the southern and western hemispheres near the summit of the Tupungato Volcano in Chile. The combination of the two stations provide critical data to study climate-glacier interactions in the accumulation zone and characterize the extreme climate at the highest elevations in the Andes.

This work builds upon previous Perpetual Planet Expeditions to install weather stations in high mountain environments, including to Mt. Logan in 2022 as well as to Mt. Everest in 2019 and 2022, both of which were led by Perry and Matthews. Rolex supports these expeditions as part of its Perpetual Planet initiative. 

To learn more about Perpetual Planet Expeditions visit: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/topic/perpetual-planet

Media Kit

Images 

###

ABOUT PERPETUAL PLANET EXPEDITIONS 

The National Geographic and Rolex partnership supports expeditions to explore the planet’s most critical environments. By harnessing world-renowned scientific expertise and cutting-edge technology that reveal new insights about the systems that are vital to life on Earth, these expeditions help scientists, decision-makers, and local communities plan for and find solutions to the impacts of climate and environmental change while illuminating the wonder of our world through impactful storytelling.

ABOUT ROLEX’S PERPETUAL PLANET INITIATIVE  

For nearly a century, Rolex has supported pioneering explorers pushing back the boundaries of human endeavour. The company has moved from championing exploration for the sake of discovery to protecting the planet, committing for the long term to support individuals and organizations using science to understand and devise solutions to today’s environmental challenges.  

This engagement was reinforced with the launch of the Perpetual Planet initiative in 2019, which initially focused on individuals who contribute to a better world through the Rolex Awards for Enterprise, on safeguarding the oceans through a partnership with Mission Blue, and on understanding climate change as part of its association with the National Geographic Society.

An expanding portfolio of other partnerships embraced by the Perpetual Planet initiative now include: the Under The Pole expeditions, pushing the boundaries of underwater exploration; the One Ocean Foundation and Menkab, both protecting cetacean biodiversity in the Mediterranean; the Xunaan-Ha Expedition, shedding light on water quality in Yucatán, Mexico; the B.I.G expedition to the North Pole in 2023, gathering data on threats to the Arctic; Hearts In The Ice, also collecting climate change information in the Arctic; the Monaco Blue Initiative that brings together experts on solutions for ocean conservation. 

Rolex also supports organizations and initiatives fostering the next generations of explorers, scientists and conservationists through scholarships and grants such as Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society and The Rolex Explorers Club Grants.

About National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 15,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content. To learn more, visit www.nationalgeographic.org or follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.