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Environmental conditions at the South Col of Mount Everest and their impact on hypoxia and hypothermia experienced by mountaineers

DOI: 10.1186/2046-7648-1-2

Keywords: Hypoxia, Hypothermia, High-altitude conditions, Mount Everest

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Abstract:

This is accomplished through the analysis of barometric pressure, temperature and wind speed data collected by an automatic weather station installed at the South Col. These data were also used as inputs to parameterizations of wind chill equivalent temperature (WCT) and facial frostbite time (FFT).The meteorological data show clear evidence of seasonality, with evidence of pre-monsoon, monsoon and post-monsoon conditions. Low pressures, cold temperatures and high wind speeds characterize the pre- and post-monsoon periods with significant variability associated with the passage of large-scale weather systems. In contrast, the monsoon period is characterized by higher pressures, warmer temperatures and lower wind speeds with a pronounced reduction in variability. These environmental conditions are reflected in WCTs as low as ?50°C and FFTs as short as 2?min during the pre- and post-monsoon periods. During the monsoon, the risk of cold injury is reduced with WCTs of order ?20°C and FFTs longer than 60?min. The daily cycle in the various parameters is also investigated in order to assess the changes in conditions that would be experienced during a typical summit day. The post-monsoon period in particular shows a muted daily cycle in most parameters that is proposed to be the result of the random timing of large-scale weather systems.Our results provide the first in situ characterization of the risk of hypoxia and hypothermia on Mount Everest on daily, weekly and seasonal timescales, and provide additional confirmation as to the extreme environment experienced by those attempting to summit Mount Everest and other high Himalayan mountains.The combination of low barometric pressure, cold temperatures and high winds that are common in high-altitude environments can compound hypoxic physiological stresses, resulting in an increased risk of hypothermia and frostbite [1-3]. Towards this end, a comprehensive analysis of mortality on Mount Everest indicated that hypoxia and hyp

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