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Weather Instrument Placed on McKinley

Submitted by Vicki Daniels
Phone: (907) 474-5823

07/02/02

A new weather instrument was successfully installed near the top of Mt. McKinley recently as part of a joint project between the U.S. and Japan.The instrument will take extreme altitude measurements of temperature, wind direction and speed, and transmit the information via satellite to the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Real-time weather data from the new instrument is transmitted to the polar-orbiting satellite TIROS. The continuous data will be received by the UAF International Arctic Research Center via the Geophysical Institute, and will be available to the public on the Internet at http://www.denali.gi.alaska.edu/.

An expedition of eight climbers from the Japan Alpine Club, including one person from UAF, climbed the mountain and installed the instrument 1,120 feet from the summit at an altitude of 19,200 feet above sea level. The club installed a different weather instrument in the same location in 1990, which was donated to the International Arctic Research Center at the time of its opening ceremony in 1999.

The original weather station was set up in memory of four Japanese climbers, including the famous mountaineer and adventurer Naomi Uemura, who all disappeared near the location of the station on separate climbing expeditions of Mt. McKinley. It is believed that the climbers were all literally blown off the mountain by gusts of wind.

Though the original instrument was able to gather weather data, its moving parts would often ice up and break in the high winds that can reach up to 200 miles per hour. In addition, access of the information required an annual expedition by the Japan Alpine Club to physically retrieve the data, making it unavailable for use by the National Weather Service, National Park Service, and other interested groups.

Expedition Leader Yoshitomi Okura has headed up each expedition since 1990. This year's event marks his thirteenth climb to the summit of McKinley, the highest mountain in North America.

UAF Geophysical Institute Electronics Shop Supervisor Kevin Abnett designed the new and improved instrument installed Tuesday. It is able to transmit data to a satellite, making physical retrieval unnecessary. With an ultrasonic wind sensor, the instrument has no moving parts making it more resistant to McKinley's high winds and temperature extremes as low as -70 degrees Fahrenheit.

"This represents a significant advancement for remote data gathering devices used in harsh environments," explained Abnett.

The National Park Service sees the weather station as an invaluable tool, making real-time near-summit weather information available at the Talkeetna Mountaineering Center to the hundreds of climbers who attempt the summit each year, as well as park rangers, who must plan and perform search-and-rescue operations.

International Arctic Research Center Director Syun-Ichi Akasofu said, "I am glad that this joint project between the U.S. and Japan will be useful for the public. Continuous weather information from the station will benefit all interested people, including school children. We very much appreciate the support of the National Park Service and the National Science Foundation on this project."

For more information, contact:

Vicki Daniels, Public Relations Specialist, UAF Geophysical Institute and International Arctic Research Center: (907) 474-5823

Syun-Ichi Akasofu, Director, International Arctic Research Center: (907) 474-6012

Kevin Abnet, Electronics Shop Supervisor, UAF Geophysical Institute: (907) 474-7560