Mount Everest, Earth's tallest mountain, just got taller by about a meter

The mountain has a new official number to brag about.

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
CNET freelancer Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
2 min read

During Tuesday's press conference, representatives from China and Nepal revealed Mount Everest's new, more exact height.

Video screenshot by Gael Fashingbauer Cooper/CNET

How does the tallest mountain on Earth get ... taller? Mount Everest, the world's highest peak, is about 8,848.86 meters (29,031.7 feet) high, China and Nepal have decided after years of re-measuring. That's taller than the mountain's previous recognized height, though not that much taller. The change from Everest's previous accepted height is less than a meter, so less than 3.28 feet. But when you're talking about Earth's highest mountain, every little bit counts.

"We can be confident that this is the most accurate height of Everest that we have ever had," said Nepal's chief survey officer, Susheel Dangol, Nepal's chief survey officer, according to the Washington Post. "It was a huge responsibility on our part."

The two countries, which border each other at the mountain's summit, shared the news in a joint virtual briefing Tuesday that was streamed live online. Nepal began remeasuring the mountain in 2017, and China began its own work after Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Nepal in 2019. 

As part of the complicated measurement, researchers placed signal receivers on the mountain and measured the amount of time it took signals to travel between the receiver and satellites to figure out the new height. 

Global positioning devices and ground-penetrating radar were also used. Nepal's lead surveyor Khimlal Gautam ended up with damaged toes due to frostbite he suffered while installing the measuring equipment.

"I could not wear shoes for around six months," he said in an online interview with a Nepalese news site. "I am not much sad though because my mission was already successful."

A 2015 earthquake in Nepal helped inspire the re-measurement of Everest. The BBC notes that some geologists thought that quake could've shrunk the mountain's snow cap, while others note that Himalayan peaks can actually grow taller over time as shifting tectonic plates push them upward.

The Chinese surveying team was the only group to reach Everest's summit during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic amid China's ban on foreign travelers.

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