Nepal and China have measured: the highest mountain on earth adds a few centimeters. The cause of the new official height of the mountain giant could be a natural event.

The highest mountain on Earth is now officially 86 centimeters higher – namely 8,848.86 meters. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced this during a video conference on Tuesday. So far, there is a generally accepted elevation of 8848 meters for Mount Everest, which Indian researchers found in the 1950s. Since then, however, different teams have measured and come to slightly different results. Now China and Nepal, on whose common border the mountain stands, have measured and calculated together for the first time.

The new official elevation value could not have changed just because of more accurate measurement methods, says Christian Gerlach of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences, which studies earth measurements and glaciology. The elevation could actually have changed – for example, due to a shift in tectonic plates, the strong earthquake in 2015, which typically led to elevation changes in the Himalayan mountains, and the melting of the snow on the summit due to climate change.

Research should be a sign of ‘eternal friendship’

Nepal, one of the least developed countries in the world after the United Nations, initially only wanted to measure. But after a visit by Chinese state and party leader Xi Jinping in 2019, it became a joint project under the sign of “eternal friendship,” according to a joint statement. China also emphasized infrastructure aid to poor Nepal, which in turn emphasized the recognition of Taiwan and Tibet as parts of China.

To determine the height, teams from both countries climbed the mountain and measured it there with angle measuring devices with known points in the valley and devices that receive GPS signals. The Nepalese team got up in 2019 when there was a traffic jam of adventurers in the so-called death zone. The Chinese team was there this Corona year – as the only team, according to media reports. To arrive at the new value, there are also measurements of the gravity in the area around Everest and calculations with a computer model. Because the satellite measurement does not directly register the height above sea level.

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