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Weather Stations to Aid Torch Relay
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Six automated meteorological observation stations have been set up on Mount Qomolangma, the world's highest peak, to ensure a successful Olympic torch relay, the local meteorological bureau in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region said.

Mount Qomolangma

Located at six positions, starting at the base camp at 5,200 meters and going as high as an elevation of 6,200 meters above sea level, the observation stations form a network allowing authorities to collect and read meteorological data and forecast the weather on Mount Qomolangma, said Wu Shihong, an official with the Tibet meteorological bureau.

The observatories will provide updates every hour and summaries will be available every 15 or 30 minutes. Four of the six observatories are already in operation, said Wu.

"The data will provide us with crucial information about weather changes during specific periods of time. The observatories will provide concrete statistics to ensure a successful Olympic torch relay across Mount Qomolangma in the build-up to the 2008 Beijing Games," Wu said.

Organizers of the Beijing Games have revealed ambitious plans for the longest torch relay in Olympic history - a 137,000-kilometer, 130-day route that will cross five continents and scale the world's highest summit, which straddles the border between China and Nepal.

In addition to their contribution to the Olympics, Wu said, the observatories are also expected to help provide data on the long-term effects of climate change in the area.

Tibet experienced its third warmest winter in the last seven years this year, with temperatures rising by as much as 9 C in some areas, according to the regional meteorological bureau.

Climate change has led to the acceleration of glacial melt on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, also known as the "roof of the world".

The plateau, regarded as a barometer for the world's climatic conditions, has seen its glaciers melt at an average rate of 131.4 sq km per year over the past three decades, scientists have said.

They have also warned that Mount Qomolangma will eventually lose its snow cover if climate change is allowed to continue unchecked.

A Chinese survey in 2005 found Mount Qomolangma, known to Westerners as Mount Everest, stands 8,844 meters above sea level.

(China Daily May 18, 2007)

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