Feature: The weather tester in the clouds

Source: Xinhua| 2018-10-12 20:43:12|Editor: Li Xia
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XINING, Oct. 12 (Xinhua) -- As dawn arrives, Wang Liefu puts on a heavy cotton jacket, leaves his warm room and strides into the howling wind outside. In the wide open, he sends a 2.5 meter-diameter balloon up into the sky.

From 7:15 a.m. to 7:20 a.m. sharp every morning, the balloon carries various sensors 30 km upward to gather weather data above the Tanggula Mountains on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

The data is then transferred to the China Meteorological Administration in Beijing and shared with meteorological bureaus worldwide.

The temperature, wind velocity, air pressure and humidity over the Tanggula Mountains help shed light on atmospheric conditions and climate changes that can have a global impact on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, known as the "Roof of the World."

Wang and his 13 colleagues work at the Tuotuo River weather station to make sure the data is gathered daily at the precise time. Since the station was founded in 1956, generations of workers have never failed in this mission.

Life is tough at the weather station. At an altitude 4,539 meters, it is one of the world's highest.

The Tanggula Mountains are covered in snow seven months a year. There is little air, the sun is scorching and snow storms are frequent.

Wang and many of his colleagues have tanned skin, and blue lips due to the lower oxygen levels in the blood. The lack of oxygen also causes insomnia.

"We choose not to take naps during the day in order to better fall asleep at night," Wang said. "We have to ensure a good night's sleep, otherwise the work will be affected on the other day."

The job is hazardous due to such a high altitude.

In summer, the measuring device can become an easy target of lightning, while in winter, strong winds may cause the hydrogen-filled balloon to crash hard on the ground, causing explosions.

Wang has worked in the station for eight years, following the path of his uncle Wang Jun, who was head of the station in 1999.

"I like meteorological work, so I applied for the job, and then I came here," Wang said. "My uncle spent his whole life here, and I felt it was the obligation of my generation to take on the baton."

Wang met his wife, who is also a colleague, at the station. They had a son three years ago. In September, his wife and son both had to leave the station and receive care in the city of Golmud, six hours away by train, because of heart problems.

"I felt my son was not so close to me," Wang said, talking about a recent visit home. "He pushed me to the edge of the bed when I lied down with him."

Wang had thought about leaving the post at the station, but he worried about his colleagues, many of whom are under 30 and not experienced enough to handle the work independently.

"I still have responsibilities here, before I pass on the baton," Wang said.