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Mt. Everest just got taller by more than two feet2 min read

December 17, 2020 2 min read


Mt. Everest just got taller by more than two feet2 min read

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Recently, China and Nepal jointly announced that Mt Everest has gotten taller by more than two feet! The mountain now stands at 8,848.86 metres (29,031.69 feet) above sea level. How did the countries get to this figure though? And how do people measure mountains? Let’s find out.

Ever-growing, ever-shrinking

Mt Everest, much like the rest of the Himalayan range, is growing by about half a centimetre each year. This happens due to the movement of tectonic plates, which make up the outermost layer of the Earth – the lithosphere. As the Indian plate continues to slip under the Eurasian plate, the mountain range continues to rise. However, when an earthquake occurs, the height of a mountain comes down!

Measuring a mountain? Now that’s an uphill task!

A Chinese researcher sets a satellite tracking device
atop Mt Everest. Photo: AP

These days, there is all kinds of technology in place to measure the height of a mountain, but this wasn’t always the case. Let’s look back…

An early version of the theodolite.
Photo: Wikipedia
  • Sir George Everest (after whom the mountain is named), who was the Surveyor General of India in the early 19th century, used trigonometry to measure mountains. Optical instruments like theodolites were used, which is a cross between a telescope and a compass.
  • As the years passed, efforts were made to get more accurate measurements of mountains using theodolites that are fixed with lasers. This was carried out by a team of Nepalese researchers last year.
  • Last year, a Nepalese team also set up a satellite navigation marker on Everest’s peak to gauge its exact position via GPS satellites. Ground-penetrating radar has also been used to measure the amount of snow and ice present on top of the mountain’s highest rock.

Owliver’s Obscure Facts:

Everest takes the prize!

If measured from the Earth’s core, Ecuador’s Mount Chimborazo is the world’s highest mountain, standing more than 2,072 metres (6,800 feet) above Everest. However, as the Earth bulges in the middle, mountains along the equator, such as Chimborazo, are farther from the core. Hawaii’s Mauna Kea would also beat Everest if mountains were measured from their base rather than what lies above sea level. Mauna Kea stands at about 33,500 feet, but more than 19,000 feet lies under the Pacific Ocean.

Sources: National Geographic, Economic Times