Here’s why China and Nepal agree on a new standard height for Mount Everest.
The tallest mountain in the world is now officially a little higher – and that might not be the end of the story.
China and Nepal Okay this week on a new standard height for Mount Everest, the rugged Himalayan peak that straddles their border.
As definitive as it may sound, geological changes, the complicated task of measuring a mountain, and varying criteria to determine the world’s tallest peak will likely ensure that the matter is not settled for good.
The height of the mountain changes. The movement of tectonic plates can lift it gradually, while earthquakes can bring it down.
Compensating forces can help maintain some degree of stability over time, said Dang Yamin, a member of a Chinese team that studied the height of Everest earlier this year.
“Nature tends to find a balance,” he told the state-run Xinhua News Agency. As an example, Dang cited a massive 1934 earthquake that wiped out 150 years of constant height increase in moments.
Measure the mountains
There are several ways to measure a mountain. Last year, a Nepalese team installed a satellite navigation marker on the summit of Everest to measure its exact position via GPS satellites.
A Chinese team undertook a similar mission in the North Spring, although they used the Chinese-made BeiDou navigation satellite constellation, as well as other equipment.
At the same time, Nepalese crews took measurements with modern versions and equipped with laser instruments called theodolites, first used to measure the height of the mountain in 1856 by measuring angles using trigonometry. .
The Nepalese team also used ground-penetrating radar to measure how much snow and ice is on top of its highest rock.
China and Nepal presented a new official figure of 8,848.86 meters (29,000 feet) above sea level. The agreement announced on Wednesday was heralded as a sign of growing political, economic and cultural ties. between the two countries.
The new height is 0.86 meters (two feet) above the higher of the countries’ previous two figures, that given by Nepal. The two diverged for years on the actual height of the mountain.
Measuring height above sea level has always been tricky because ocean levels vary widely depending on tides, magnetism, and other factors. Another factor for future measurements is the rise in sea level.
The height above sea level is only one way to measure the height of a mountain. One of the reasons Everest wins the award is that its base sits high up on already high buttresses.
Measured from the Earth’s core, Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador is the tallest in the world, towering over 2,072 meters (6,800 feet) above Everest. Because the Earth is bulging in the middle, the mountains along the equator are further from the core.
Measuring from the foot of the mountain to the top, Hawaii’s Mauna Kea is the tallest. Most of it, however, is under the sea.