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Observe weather on "the roof of the world"

2019-02-22 10:17:00Xinhua

At 7:30 a.m., it is still dark outside, and winds are howling. Losong Lhamo put on her down jacket and gloves. With a flashlight, she arrived at the meteorological observation site.

She bent down to check the ice in the small evaporator, and record the data of the frozen earth shown on the tube. After that, she climbed up the slope to observe the change of the clouds.

Located in Amdo County, Nagqu prefecture of China's Tibet Autonomous Region, the meteorological bureau is 4,800 meters above sea level, and is believed to be the highest manned meteorological observation site in the world.

Despite the challenges of low temperatures and thin air, generations of weathermen have been working at the station for over half a century. Now seven people are working at the site.

After the observation, Losong Lhamo rushed back to the office building to report the data about sunlight, frozen earth, rainfall, wind speed and direction, earth temperature, evaporation rate, cloud cover and visibility.

"We are required to finish each report within three minutes," she said, "and we have to be very accurate with all the data."

Every day, Losong Lhamo and her colleagues conduct eight observations, including one at 2 a.m. and another at 5 a.m.

"When we are on the night shift, it is hard for us to fall asleep again after finishing an observation in the cold," she said.

The temperature in Amdo is around minus 30 degrees Celsius in winter. Without gloves, fingers can get stuck on the iron door, and the weathermen have to warm up the measuring instruments against their bodies so they can operate normally, according to Losong Lhamo.

"It's arduous work, but compared to the older generations, what we are experiencing now is no big deal at all," she said.

Chen Jinshui, 85, is the founder of the station. Back in the 1960s, Chen arrived at Amdo with two tents and a few meteorological measuring instruments to establish the observation site.

"The local villagers could not understand what I was doing. They whispered amongst themselves that I must be crazy," he recalled with a laugh.

Later on, some colleagues joined him, and they dug into the frozen soil with shovels and pickaxes to build the observation site.

Chen recalled that in the past, yak dung was the only available fuel, and he had to walk for dozens of kilometers to buy it. Without pressure cookers, it was hard to cook rice due to the low oxygen concentration in the air. Therefore, they only ate half-cooked rice.

Chen, who returned to his hometown after retiring, visited Amdo in 2013. He was happy to see the drastic changes at the station.

Instead of using dung for heating, the bureau now has a coal-fueled heating system. A three-story office building has replaced the shabby mud house. Automated observation facilities and electronic data collecting systems have reduced much of the manual labor.

"The changes at the Amdo station are a reflection of the improvement of the country's meteorological work," he said.

Young meteorologists followed in Chen's footsteps to come to the station.

Losong Lhamo, 31, has been working here since 2012 after graduating from a university in the city of Nanjing, Jiangsu Province. She was so dedicated to her work that she applied to continue working even when she was pregnant and near her due date.

Tsangla, 29, once worked in the meteorological bureau of Sog county, where, at an altitude lower than 4,000 meters, work was less challenging and life more comfortable. She applied to move to the Amdo bureau, knowing there was a lack of staff.

During the past five decades, the station collected around one million pieces of meteorological data, offering valuable reference for the study of climate change on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the prevention of natural disasters, as well as the construction of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway.

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