The world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest, is officially 8,848.86 meters or 29.032 feet. Nepal and China have issued a joint statement about the update in height. China had previously measured the mountain at 8,844.43 meters, which is four meters lesser than what Nepal has calculated. As the mountain stands at the border between Nepal and China, the mountaineers climb from both sides, and it is an important natural structure for both countries.
8848.86 metres is the newly-measured height of Mount Everest, Nepal’s Foreign Minister announces. pic.twitter.com/Fnxh1liY98— ANI (@ANI) December 8, 2020
According to reports, the experts from both nations worked together to agree on the new height. When Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Nepal last year, the two nations decided to announce the new measurement of Everest’s height together.
The difference in official height of Mount Everest
Nepalese authorities argued that the snow on the top of Mount Everest must be added to the official measurement. On the other hand, Chinese authorities said that only the rock height should be measured. In 2005, Chinese surveyors calculated the height of Mount Everest. At that time, Nepal refused to accept the new height. Till now, the official height of Mount Everest was measured according to the survey done by India in 1954.
In 2012, Nepal’s government officials said that China was pressurizing Nepal to accept the measurement according to the Chinese surveyors. Nepal instead decided to do a fresh measurement on its own. The surveyors from Nepal spent two years to train for the mission. Damodar Dhakal, a spokesman at Nepal’s department of the survey, had said in his interview to BBC in 2012, “Before this, we had never done the measurement ourselves.” He had further added that as Nepal had the required technical team to do the measurement, they had decided to go ahead with it.
Effect of climate and calamities on Everest’s height
Some geologists believed that the 2015 earthquake might have changed Everest’s height. Also, it might have caused shrinkage in the snow cap of the mountain. Climate change that resulted in ice caps to shrink could have also added up to the change in the actual height of the mountain. Some experts, on the other hand, had argued that due to the shifting of the tectonic plates, the height of Mount Everest could have increased.
The process of measuring Mount Everest
The height of mountains is based on the measurement with the mean sea level at the base. The starting point or the bottom is more crucial to the calculation that the top of the mountain. While Nepal used the Bay of Bengal as its sea level, China had used the Yellow Sea in the eastern province of Shandong as the sea-level base. Using the trigonometry formulas to calculate the height, the surveyors from both sides came up with the exact height by multiplying its base with its angles.
To complete the measurement process, someone has to be at the top of the mountain. Last year, surveyors from Nepal went up to the summit, and this year in May, Chinese surveyors went there. The Chinese team was the only team to be able to reach the top of the mountain as Nepal had suspended expeditions amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Both China and Nepal used 12 lower peaks for their calculations to ensure precise results. China Daily quoted Jiang Tao, associate researcher at the Chinese Academy of surveying and mapping saying, “Once the surveyor’s beacon had been placed on the summit, surveyors at stations around the summit measured the distance from the six points to the beacon, which meant at least six triangles could be calculated to determine the mountain’s height.”
While Nepal used GPS for its calculations, China used its own BeiDou navigation satellite system. Dhakal said, “We processed this data using internationally accepted methodology to determine the height of Mount Everest.”