In 2012 January, The Földgömb Foundation for Expedition Research launched a surveying expedition with the aim of starting long-term data collection on the world's highest volcano, the 6893 m high Ojos del Salado. The expedition's importance is delivered by the location and its extreme environment as well as the fact that this had been the first long-term environmental and climate measurement ever launched at such a high altitude on Earth. The main rationale of our research is the fact that this area is an extreme environment—which is common knowledge—but the major causing factors for its extremity are still undiscovered. Data and analyses of this long-term (several years) monitoring project will provide us basic information about environmental parameters, moreover, their monitored changes give us insight in to the dynamism of climate change and its consequences.

The field research has different phases: field survey, installing the instruments, regular download of data from the instruments and raw processing of these—right on site.
As a consequence, the Földgömb–Atacama Climate Monitoring Project must be a series of expeditions. The first phase was completed in 2012, the next one is planned for 2014. Also, depending on the results gained we plan to continue the research for several years. We also plan to apply other research methods and to install new, different types of instruments. Therefore, in the beginning, the field work and data analyses need to be done biannually. This may change depending on the instrument park and the results.

Expedition Schedule

  • I. Expedition: Field survey and data collection: 2012. January 24–February 9. (Completed)
  • II. Expedition: First occasion of downloading data, and further field survey, measurements: 2014. February 3–March 1.

Research Leader: Dr. Balázs Nagy, leader of the First Hungarian Antarctic Expedition, Head of Eötvös University’s Center of Geography at Budapest, associate professor at the Department of Physical Geography.

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Expedition Objectives

Our research expedition's goal is to analyze the permafrost's presence, its horizontal and vertical extent, degradation and changes—at the highest possible location on Earth, at five altitude levels between 4200 and 6890 m. Doing so, we aim to make a status survey, which would provide us with basic data for monitoring the permafrost—a great indicator of environmental change. Therefore, apart from the permafrost's status studies, we placed permanently working—surface and sub-terrain temperature—data loggers at all studied elevations, with an estimated biannual download. Besides collecting permafrost data, it is also our major goal to analyze active and fossil processes of the alpine desert and tundra, as well as, modeling their dynamics. We pay special attention to study phenomena of episodically present water, eolian erosion and accumulation. Also we search for explanations for the presence of extremely high altitude (periodic) lakes, and study the environmental roles of connecting volcanic phenomena (e.g. thermal springs, gas emissions).

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Expected Results

By launching the field research and collection of data we will have the opportunity to study parameters of environmental change providing us with tangible information on the extreme area's environmental conditions and changes. We expect to get a realistic picture of the current changes, their extent and dynamics.

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Professionalism

Our study area is an extreme environment—which is common knowledge—but the major causing factors for its extremity are still undiscovered. Scarcity of information may be due to the area's isolation, the extreme weather and the harsh field-work conditions. Data and analyses of the long-term monitoring project will provide basic information about environmental parameters, moreover, their monitored changes give us insight in to the dynamism of climate change and its consequences. Today's alpine research projects climb higher and higher because numerous indicator locations are situated in high elevation environments. E.g. researchers have done ice-core drilling at 6500 m a.s.l. in Bolivia, a similar monitoring work has been launched in Mexico at 5000-5500 m a.s.l. But none of their environmental extremity and elevation can be compared to our work on Ojos del Salado.

For the Media

The expedition's newsworthiness lies in the location and the extreme environment—as well as the fact, that at such high elevation no one has done any long-term environmental (climate) measurements on Earth so far. A good example for the media's great attention towards this area is our field survey and ascent to Ojos del Salado in 2010. That year we were the first Hungarians who ever reach the summit of this giant volcano. Therefore, each significant channel of the Hungarian media reported the event.
In 2012 we returned to the same research destination, this time with the intention of placing measuring devices and starting the actual field work.
Media about our 2010 and 2012 activities can be found at the Foundation's website: www.expedicio.eu/hu/sajtovisszhang

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Professional partners

  • Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Department of Physical Geography,
  • Hungarian Geographical Society,
  • Universidad de Atacama (Copiapó — Chile),
  • Nevado Tres Cruces National Park (Chile)