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Saturday, December 2, 2023

Surviving the Elements: Witnessing the Resilient Atmosphere of the Desert in Extreme Conditions

ChinaSurviving the Elements: Witnessing the Resilient Atmosphere of the Desert in Extreme Conditions

Dong Yinxi, an observer at the Akdala atmospheric background station located in the Junggar Basin of Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, is no stranger to facing challenges. When a power outage alarm sounds at around 4 am, she leaps into action, grabbing a flashlight and trudging through knee-deep snow to reach her work station, about 300 meters away. Despite the harsh conditions, Dong remains committed to her work and is dedicated to ensuring the smooth functioning of the station.

The Akdala station, whose name means “desolate Gobi Desert” in the Kazak language, is known for its extreme weather conditions. Since its inception in 2002, the station has experienced a significant difference of 85 degrees between the highest and the lowest temperatures recorded there, with extreme wind speeds of up to 32 meters per second. These conditions make power outages a frequent occurrence at the station. Despite the challenging environment, Dong and her colleagues remain committed to their work, ensuring that the station continues to operate at peak efficiency.

Despite being only 23 years old, Dong has already been working at the station for a year and a half. During her time there, she has developed the habit of running when she hears an alarm. This is just one example of the dedication and commitment that Dong and her colleagues demonstrate every day. Their hard work ensures that the station is well-maintained and that accurate data is collected, which is crucial for scientific research.

The station operates 24 hours a day throughout the year, with four to five people on duty,” explains a spokesperson. The Akdala station, located in the upper reaches of China’s weather system, is one of the seven national atmospheric background stations in China. It is situated far from the interference of human activity, and its location offers good air quality.

Due to its important role in providing information on the health of the atmosphere, the station provides more than 40 types of services, including ground observation and greenhouse gas observation. The data collected and transmitted from the Akdala station is crucial for the evaluation of the atmosphere’s “health”. Therefore, data collection and transmission at the station is a non-stop operation.

In the event of a power outage, the station’s emergency power automatically turns on. However, there is a possibility that some of the equipment may malfunction, and in such cases, the station’s personnel must rush to the site as quickly as possible. This is necessary, whether they are sleeping or eating, to ensure the timely restoration of services.

The Akdala station is an essential part of China’s meteorological service. It is responsible for providing reliable data on the atmosphere’s state, which is essential for the accurate forecasting of weather patterns. The station is manned by a dedicated team of professionals who work around the clock to ensure that data is collected, processed and transmitted seamlessly.

The Akdala station is a vital component of China’s atmospheric background monitoring network. Its location in an area with good air quality, far from human interference, allows for the collection of accurate and reliable data. The station’s personnel work tirelessly to ensure that the data collection and transmission process is uninterrupted, even during emergencies, and that the information gathered is available for the benefit of all.

According to Xie Xiang, a 28-year-old observer at the station, “figuratively speaking, we are giving the atmosphere a physical examination.” In addition to collecting various kinds of gases, the team at the Akdala station also collects samples of rain and snow and maintains equipment in windy conditions. Xie emphasizes that the data collected is vital, not only for China’s annual greenhouse gas bulletin but also as an early warning system for regional atmospheric changes and air pollution.

To minimize the impact on the local atmosphere, the station’s dormitories were built hundreds of meters away from the observation field, says station head Wang Jianlin, who is 54 years old. Wang explains that the team is careful about the amount of oil used while cooking, and their living facilities are heated and powered using clean energy. Such measures ensure that the station’s daily activities do not interfere with its critical role in monitoring the atmosphere.

As part of China’s efforts to improve its greenhouse gas observation capabilities, the China Meteorological Administration plans to add more atmospheric background stations across the country during the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-25). Such stations will ensure that a larger area of the country is covered, and data can be collected from various parts of the nation.

It is worth noting that China aims to peak its carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. The efforts to expand the atmospheric background monitoring network in the country are a testament to the commitment to these goals.

The collection of data by the Akdala station plays a vital role in evaluating the atmosphere’s health and, ultimately, in mitigating the adverse effects of climate change. It provides critical information about the state of the atmosphere, including levels of greenhouse gases, which can help identify potential risks and prompt appropriate action.

Akdala station’s team of professionals is dedicated to the mission of monitoring and collecting data on the atmosphere’s health. By taking measures to minimize their impact on the local atmosphere, they ensure that the data collected is accurate and reliable. The Chinese government’s efforts to expand the atmospheric background monitoring network are an essential step towards achieving its greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.

In conclusion, the work that Dong Yinxi and her colleagues do at the Akdala atmospheric background station is not for the faint of heart. It takes dedication, resilience, and a willingness to face challenging conditions. Despite the difficulties they face, they remain committed to their work and continue to ensure that the station functions smoothly. Their hard work is vital to scientific research and helps us better understand our planet’s atmosphere.

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