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英国最高峰:苏格兰本尼维斯山的故事

The hidden history of the UK's highest peak
英国最高峰:苏格兰本尼维斯山的故事

Each year, 150,000 people hike Scotland’s Ben Nevis – a former volcano and Britain’s highest mountain, at 1,345m (4,400ft) above sea level. Many opt to take the so-called tourist trail, the rocky path which winds and zigzags its way to the summit. Few realise that this path was initially carved out in 1883 for a very unique scientific expedition. Even fewer know that now, more than a century later, this site is providing UK scientists with insights into climate change.

每年有15万人前往苏格兰的本尼维斯山(Ben Nevis)徒步旅行,这座死火山是英国最高峰,海拔1,345米。许多人会取道一条所谓的“旅游者路径”(Tourist Route),蜿蜒曲折、岩石磊磊的路径通向山顶。很少人知道,这条登山路径是1883年,为了一项非常独特的科学研究开凿出来的。更少人知道,一个多世纪后的今天,这座山峰仍在为英国科学家提供气候变化的资料。

Back in Victorian Britain, science was still largely an amateur pastime conducted by bands of self-financed enthusiasts who formed scientific societies. One was the Scottish Meteorological Society, which set up and maintained a network of weather stations across Scotland between 1855 and 1920.

回到维多利亚时期的英国,科学在很大程度上仍然是业余消遣活动,爱好者自资组成不同的科学会社。其中有一个是苏格兰气象学会(Scottish Meteorological Society),在1855至1920年期间建立和维护了一个横跨苏格兰的气象站网络。
 

每年有15万人前往苏格兰的本尼维斯山徒步旅行

At the time, a key question was how depressions, storms and other severe climatic events form in the atmosphere. By 1875 mountain observatories were being established across the US, Mexico, India, France, Germany and Russia.

当时,一个重要的问题是,究竟低气压、风暴和其他恶劣天气是如何在大气中形成的。1875年,美国、墨西哥、印度、法国、德国和俄罗斯境内经已建立高山观测站了。

Keen to gather similar data for Britain, the Scottish Meteorological Society decided to build a weather station at the top of Ben Nevis. For a trial run, one particularly intrepid member scaled the mountain every day for four months – through blizzards, gales, and heavy storms – to record measurements at the summit. Funding to build the station and obtain the instruments was raised through a kind of 19th-Century crowdfunding initiative. Even Queen Victoria donated.

为了收集英国的类似资料,苏格兰气象学会决定在本尼维斯山顶建造一个气象站。作为测试,一位格外勇敢的会员连续四个月每天登山,穿越过暴风雪、狂风或暴雨,在山顶记录各种数据。至于建筑和购买仪器的资金,则是通过十九世纪时期的集资众筹倡议,甚至连维多利亚女王也有捐款。

And so began a remarkable experiment in Victorian stoicism and scientific endeavour. From 1883 to 1904, a few hardy individuals lived year-round in a small stone hut, surviving on tinned food and making hourly recordings of everything from atmospheric temperature to humidity, wind speed to rainfall. In total they made almost 1.5 million observations – often going to extraordinary lengths and risking their lives to record data in the most hostile of conditions.

具有维多利亚时期的坚忍和科学探索的非凡实验就这样开始了。1883年到1904年间,几位坚毅的勇者,常年住在一间小石屋里,靠罐头食品维生,每隔一小时,记录从大气温度到湿度,从风速到降雨量的所有数据。他们总共做了近150万次观测——每次要花很长时间冒着生命危险,在最艰苦的条件下记录资料。

“Many of their scientific contemporaries were involved in planning Arctic or Antarctic expeditions but these guys were pioneering explorers of the atmosphere,” says Ed Hawkins, professor of climate science at the University of Reading.

雷丁大学(University of Reading)气候科学教授埃霍金斯(Ed Hawkins)说:“当许多科学界的当代人都去参与规划北极或南极的探险计划,他们却成为探索大气层的先驱。”

“They were living in very severe weather conditions: 100mph winds were not uncommon, the temperature would drop to -15C (5F) at times, and they lived inside a cloud for most of the year. But on the rare occasions the cloud was below them, they got the most amazing views. So I suspect they lived for those days where they could see for miles and miles around.”

“他们在极为恶劣的气候条件下生活,风速为每小时100英里的强风并不罕见,有时气温会降至摄氏零下15度,他们常年被云雾环绕。然而,亦有云层在脚下景色难忘的时刻。我有点儿怀疑,他们是否因为一览众山小的绝美景色,才会熬过那些日子。”

The harsh realities of life at the top of a mountain quickly became apparent during the first winter of 1883. With heavy blizzards leaving the entire summit covered in a 5ft (1.5m) layer of snow, the three weathermen found themselves snowed in to such an extent that they had to repeatedly dig tunnels just to get out.

1883年的冬天,山顶上严酷的生活现实很快就显现出来了。暴风雪将整个山峰覆盖了1.5米厚的积雪,三位气象纪录员发现驻地被大雪埋住,他们只能不断挖掘通道才能出去。

“They were very committed to try and take these measurements every hour, working in four to eight hour shifts throughout day and night. But very occasionally they were beaten by the weather,” Hawkins says.

“他们每小时进行一次测量,四到八个小时一班不分昼夜轮班作业。很少被天气挫败。”霍金斯说。

Rather than being thwarted by their extreme living environment, the weathermen developed ingenious solutions like building a wooden tower which allowed them to crawl out onto the roof of the observatory, tethered to a rope, to take instrument readings in adverse weather. Occasionally they even resorted to using their own bodies to lean into the wind in order to calibrate estimates of wind speed – an activity which sometimes saw them almost blown off the mountain.

气象纪录员并没有被极端的生活环境所挫败,反而研制出巧妙的解决方案,比如搭建一座木塔,让自己爬到观测台的屋顶,系上绳子,在恶劣的天气下进行仪器读数。有时,他们甚至利用自己的身躯,斜靠向风,以校准风速的估算。这个姿势,有时会使他们几乎被大风刮离山顶。

“The main danger they faced was that they were very close to the edge of the cliff,” says Marjory Roy, who wrote the book The Weathermen of Ben Nevis. “The summit is a longish ride, just 200ft (61m) wide with a sheer drop on the north side of 2,000ft (610m).”

“他们面对的主要危险是,非常接近悬崖边缘。”《本尼维斯山的气象纪录员》(The Weathermen of Ben Nevis)一书的作者罗伊(Marjory Roy)说:“峰顶是一条狭长的山脊,仅6米宽,北面就是610米深的峭壁。”

“They also used to take measurements at a place high on the mountain known as ‘the plateau of storms’, and the path there was fairly narrow. If you weren’t careful, you would disappear off the cliff completely.”

“他们经常在一片被称为‘风暴高原’的高地测量,那里的山径相当狭窄。一不小心,就会跌下悬崖。”

Blizzards and precarious mountain paths were far from the only scares the weathermen faced. On a couple of occasions the observatory was struck by lightning. The first time, the lightning came down the chimney and set the wooden lining of the building on fire. (The blaze was extinguished.)

暴风雪和危险的山径并非气象纪录员面对的唯一危险。观测台曾被闪电击中过几次。第一次,闪电从烟囱窜下,烧着了屋内的木地板,幸好大火随即被扑灭。

During the summer and autumn months, when life was a little less arduous, the observatory attracted a number of volunteers, mostly students. One was Charles Wilson, who was inspired to study clouds by his experience at the top of the mountain. He later won the Nobel Prize in Physics for the invention of the cloud chamber, the first device to make it possible to detect radiation and subatomic particles which we cannot see with the naked eye.

在夏、秋两季,天气不那么严酷的几个月里,观测台吸引了一些志愿者,大都是学生。其中有查尔斯·威尔逊(Charles Wilson),在山顶上的经历启发了他对云层的研究。他发明了云室,后来因此获得了诺贝尔物理学奖,这是第一个能够探测到辐射和肉眼看不见的亚原子粒子的装置。

“Wilson was only there for two weeks, but during that time he got the most brilliant period of anticyclonic conditions and glorious views,” Roy says. “It was those things which inspired people. There were a number of people whose experiences up there influenced them to go on and discover things which made them famous.”

“威尔逊只在那里待过两个星期,但在这段时间,他遇上了最精彩的反气旋环境和光辉美丽的景观,”罗伊说:“正是这类事物激发了人们的灵感。许多人在峰顶的经历对其日后探索,并最终成功起到了影响。”

By 1904, the Scottish Meteorological Society could no longer afford the observatory’s running costs. It was closed down, and the data largely has remained hidden in the dusty pages of archives ever since.

1904年,苏格兰气象学会再也负担不起观测台的营运费用。观测台被关闭,而很大一部份的资料却隐藏在尘封的档案中。

Today, we have advanced weather forecast models – which are capable of using the kind of data taken at Ben Nevis to generate three-dimensional pictures of the atmosphere. Climate scientists now hope to use these models to re-observe famously severe storms from more than a century ago, such as a 1903 storm which wreaked havoc in Ireland before passing right over the top of Ben Nevis the following day.

今天,我们有先进的天气预报模型,利用在本尼维斯山所搜集的资料,能够做成三维立体的大气层图象。气候科学家现在希望利用这些模型重新观察一个多世纪前著名的强烈风暴,例如1903年的那场风暴,在席卷本尼维斯峰之前,把爱尔兰破坏得极为严重。

The first step – in a project which Hawkins is leading – is to compare the historical data from Ben Nevis to modern weather readings.

在霍金斯主导的一个项目中,首先是将本尼维斯山的历史数据与现代天气读数进行比较。

“We live in a part of the world which gets storms and we’ll always have them. But we’re trying to understand whether these storms are becoming more or less frequent, are they becoming more severe, are we getting more rain out of these storms, are they changing direction?” Hawkins says. “Going back in time and looking at the storms of that period enables us to compare with the storms of today, and look at the potential changes which have resulted from human-driven warming of the atmosphere over the past century.”

“我们生活在有风暴世界的里,而且风暴永远会存在。我们试图了解这些风暴是否越来越频繁,它们是否变得更加严重,这些风暴是否带来更多的雨水,它们在改变方向吗?”霍金斯说。“回到过去,看看那段时期的风暴,我们可以与今天的风暴作比较,观察过去一个世纪人类活动产生的气候暖化所造成的潜在变化。”

But these goals met a slight setback. Feeding the original Ben Nevis weather data into a computer model requires all the observations to be digitised. While the thousands of pages of observations were published in scientific journals in the early 20th Century and have been subsequently scanned, typing all 1.5 million into an online database would take years.

但这些既定目标遇到了轻微的挫折。将原来本尼维斯山的天气资料输入电脑模型中,需要对所有的数据进行数码化。二十世纪初,有达数千页之巨的观测数据已在科学期刊上发表,并已进行扫描,但将所有150万数据输入到网上资料库则仍需花多年时间。

And so thousands of volunteers across Europe have helped digitise the observations over a period of just 10 weeks in autumn 2017.

2017年秋季,来自欧洲各地的数千名义工帮助数码化工作,仅完成了10个星期的观测结果。

As a result, Hawkins’ team is now looking at how the amount of moisture in today’s storms compares to those in the late 19th Century. “A warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, and so when it rains in a storm today, we expect the amount of rain to be much greater compared to a storm a century ago, of the same severity,” he says. “It’s a fingerprint of how things are changing in a warmer world.”

因此,霍金斯团队现正研究今天风暴中的湿度与十九世纪末的情况相比。“温暖的大气层可以容纳更多的水份,所以,如果今天下暴雨,我们预期其降雨量会比一个世纪前相同强度的雨量大得多。”他说:“这就是关于万物在温暖气候里如何变化的证据。”

Today, plans are underfoot to build a new modern observatory on the ruins on the former site – albeit with automatic measuring devices rather than human inhabitants. “We haven’t had any long-term observations up there for a long time now, and this would give us information straight away on how the climate at the top of the mountain has changed,” Hawkins says. “We think that the high altitude regions are some of the places where we’ve seen the largest changes in temperature.

今天,计划要在残垣遗址上建立一座新的现代化观测站,当然有自动化测量设备,而不再依靠人手。“我们已经很久没在上面作长期观测了,峰顶气候如何变化的讯息将直接传给我们。”霍金斯说:“我们认为,温度变化最大的地方是高海拔地区。”

“This could tell us a lot.”

“从这里,我们学到很多。”
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