Weather observers on gusty, wintry mountain top

(Xinhua) 11:14, December 28, 2022

Staff members conduct a check-up on the equipment atop the weather tower at Tianchi meteorological observatory on the main peak of the Changbai Mountain in northeast China's Jilin Province, Sept. 23, 2022. (Xinhua)

CHANGCHUN, Dec. 27 (Xinhua) -- Jiao Xiangzhao is all packed up for his final shift in 2022 at Tianchi meteorological observatory in northeast China's Jilin Province and ready to embrace the New Year atop Changbai Mountain.

With an altitude of 2,620 meters, the observatory is perched on the main peak of the mountain. It lies only 150 meters from Tianchi, a scenic crater lake.

While on shift at the observatory, Jiao, 52, and his coworkers usually conduct a check-up on the equipment and data recording and look out for any safety hazards.

The work per se is not rocket science. What makes it extraordinarily challenging are the harsh weather conditions there, according to Jiao, head of the observatory.

The annual average temperature on the top of Changbai Mountain hovers around minus 7.3 degrees Celsius, making it one of the coldest places in China. For the most part of the year, the mountaintop is battered by gale-force winds.

The observatory's weather tower, which is more than three meters high, is blanketed by thick frost at this time of the year. Sometimes when the wind gauge freezes up atop the tower, Jiao and his colleagues have to climb to the top to remove the frost from the gauge.

Having worked at the observatory since 1999, Jiao has already gotten used to the harsh work environment. "Weather workers are a group of people who chase wind and snow to collect meteorological data," he said.

Compared with previous generations of weather workers, Jiao added, the work environment these days has improved significantly.

The Tianchi observatory was set up in 1958 with the purpose of collecting weather data nonstop for 30 years for the study of climate change and the protection of wildlife in the region.

When Liu Jide, now retired, started to work at the observatory in 1980, there had to be people on duty all year round.

"A single shift usually took at least six months. Each day, they had to make eight observations and send data back six times. There was no tolerance for delay," said 62-year-old Liu, former head of the observatory.

The weather workers had learned all kinds of tricks to do their job in severe weather, including tying a rope around the waist to walk in strong gusts and digging their way out of a house buried in snow.

The observatory's original 30-year data collection mission was accomplished long ago, but to this day, it is still supporting the region's ecological protection and tourism development with its weather services.

Today's observatory has been upgraded in many ways. Human observation devices have gradually been replaced by automated ones, with a special network for uploading data in real-time.

The building of the observatory has also been reinforced with steel plates and armored glass windows to withstand rain, snow, violent winds, and lightning strikes.

Instead of having people stationed there throughout the year, now most of the time, weather workers only need to inspect the observatory once every week.

(Web editor: Cai Hairuo, Liang Jun)


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