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Why Does Mount Everest’s Height Keep Changing?

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 18, 2021

Back in December 2020, Nepal and China announced that the height of Mount Everest had been remeasured and updated from a height of 8,848 meters (29,028.87 feet) to 8,848.86 meters (29,031.7 feet). Did the mountain get taller? Or the measuring more precise? And how do you measure the height of a mountain — or “sea level” for that matter — anyway?

In December of 2020, China and Nepal made a joint announcement about a new measurement for Mount Everest: 8,849 meters. This is just the latest of several different surveys of Everest since the first measurement was taken in 1855. The reasons why the height has fluctuated have to do with surveying methodology, challenges in determining sea level, and the people who have historically been able to measure Everest.

Also worth noting the (romanised) Nepalese and Tibetan names for the mountain: Sagarmāthā and Chomolungma. The section on its name at Wikipedia is pretty interesting — apparently George Everest, for whom the mountain was named, pronounced his name differently than we all do today.