Explorers from the National Geographic Society have placed a weather station just below the summit of Nevado Ausangate in Peru at 6,349m, making it the highest weather station in the tropical Andes.
The installation is part of 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. 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.
Perry said, “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. 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 including 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 snowpack. As part of the snow assessment, the team collected samples to screen for microplastics in this remote region. If present, it would likely indicate long-distance atmospheric transport.
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 all partners in the expedition.
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 provides 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 on previous Perpetual Planet Expeditions to install weather stations in high mountain environments, including to Mount Logan in 2022 as well as to Mount 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.