Highest weather station in the Andes will help scientists search for climate answers

The newly installed station will help Chile understand a historic drought with no signs of easing.


At 19,000 feet above sea level on the Chilean mountain of Tupungato, Baker Perry and his fellow climbers were clobbered in the early morning hours by an unforecasted blizzard that pinned them in their tents with punishing winds and swirling snow. Perry, a climate scientist at Appalachian State University, was philosophical as he recalled it.


“It’s part of the beauty of the mountains that it is so challenging. That’s one reason there’s not many stations up in some of these places,” says Perry. “We want to see it at its stormiest and at its most challenging as well. That’s part of the climate. We need to measure that.”


Perry is the co-leader of a team that in February braved a global pandemic and a two-week trek through dense snow to install a weather station just below the summit of Tupungato, a dormant volcano in the southern Andes, where Chile meets Argentina. Now the highest weather station in the Southern and Western hemispheres, the tool will help scientists understand how rapidly this region’s climate is changing. The expedition was organized by the National Geographic Society and supported by Rolex.


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Hernán Puga Plaza and Manuel Mira, mountain guides from a team of climbers called Asesores Andinos, carry food, mountain equipment, and medical supplies to the camp at 17,060 feet.