XINING, March 22 (Xinhua) -- Wang Jianqiong likes greasy Chinese food, but he has to refrain from the habit during work, because his job doesn't allow him to deep-fry.
Wang works at China Global Atmosphere Watch Baseline Observatory at Mount Waliguan in northwest China's Qinghai Province. It is one of 31 global baseline observatories established by the World Meteorological Organization.
Located 3,816 meters above sea level on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, the observatory was built 23 years ago to monitor ozone and greenhouse gases.
At the station's kitchen, there is a special smoke vent that empties out three kilometers downhill. "Most of the food is pre-cooked, and we simply heat it," Wang said.
Frying is banned because the cooking method produces too much smoke, which may affect data collection at the station, said Wang.
"We mainly eat jiaozi (dumplings), rice and noodles," he said.
Twenty people work at the station. "The station needs at least 10 people to keep an eye on data collection and maintain the equipment. We take turns and change shifts every ten days," said Ji Jun, a meteorological monitor.
Five of the staff members have been on expeditions to Antarctica.
"Every November to April, the wind at Waliguan is very similar to that of Antarctica. It is extremely difficult to walk against the wind from the living room to the data monitoring equipment," said Ji.
Every week, the staff collect eight bottles of air, each measuring around 1,800 ml, of which two are packaged and sent to the United States. The rest are sent to be studied by the China Meteorological Administration.
"These data mark China's contribution to the development of atmospheric science. They are the factual basis for the study of how greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide affect global warming," said Zhang Guoqing, head of the observatory.
In order to take air samples, Wang Jianqiong takes a bottle, places it on the ground, hits a switch and runs away.
"I have to hold my breath. It cannot be drawn into the bottle," he said.
Besides carbon dioxide, the station monitors levels of ozone, precipitation, and radioactive substances. Every day, more than 60,000 pieces of data are collected.
"We have the best equipment and some of them are quite similar to those used in Antarctic exploration tours," said Zhang.
Zhang said every year they use the data to map carbon dioxide changes. "Our curves are almost identical to those made at the Hawaii Mauna Loa observatory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States," he added.
The site was chosen because of its pristine environment, free from industrial pollution, and within reasonable distance to the provincial capital of Xining, said Zhang.
But the station is faced with an immediate challenge from a smoke tower built by local Tibetan residents, who burn crops here for tribute. "The smoke tower is only 200 meters away and I worry it may affect our data," he said.
"We need to ensure that the monitoring work remains unaffected and we obtain reliable data, but we also need to consider the religious activities. We have asked the local government for help," said Zhang.