Profile of Mount McKinley's Weather Station


The Associated Press has an article about Japanese mountaineer Yoshitomi Okura climb of Mount McKinley each year to install its weather station.

Okura says he does the climb to honor three who were blown off McKinley in 1989.

Okura chose the spot where his friends fell, and where Naomi Uemura, one of Japan’s most famous adventurers, vanished during the first solo winter climb in February 1984, to install a weather station in 1990.

The 55-year-old climber has been back to the weather station every year since with other members of the Japan Alpine Club to reinstall a new weather station — the old ones having been damaged and sometimes obliterated by wind and ice. The endeavor is called the Mount McKinley Weather Station Project.

“He is trying to prove that there are very strong winds up there and those guys were very experienced climbers, and it was not an accident caused by inexperience,” said Tohru Saito, a liaison with the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, who for the fifth time accompanied Okura on his climb. IARC funds the project.

The weather station sits on a ridge above Denali Pass at 5,610 meters near the mountain’s summit. It is one of the windiest places on Earth, with winds unofficially clocked at 302 kph in January 2003. When climbers reached the weather station that year, they found a snapped 36-cm long, 1.3-cm diameter antenna. Now, the antennas are made 5 cm shorter with twice the thickness and are encased in a tough Teflon tube.

Where the weather station sits is also one of the colder places on Earth. On Feb. 3, 1991, the weather station recorded an unofficial temperature of minus 58.

Climbers this year carried about $ 20,000 worth of weather equipment up in two small, black cases. Together, they weighed 20 kg — less than the 67.5 kg of equipment that Okura and the climbing team hauled up the mountain in the early 1990s.

This year’s more robust weather station, built by Climatec Inc. of Tokyo, consists of separate components, so if one fails the others can continue to collect data. The instruments include temperature, barometric and two types of wind sensors, a spinning three-cup model and an ultrasonic sensor with no moving parts.

The weather station contains a data logger, also made by Climatec, which records data every 10 minutes. That data is transmitted hourly and goes from the weather station to a receiving station in nearby Cantwell, and from there via the telephone lines to the Geophysical Institute at UAF. It is being posted on the Internet at http://www.iarc.uaf.edu/mt_mckinley/

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