Science Scoops: Mount Everest Tops Itself

How can the tallest mountain on Earth beat its own height record? Simple—it's growing! In May 1998, American mountain climber Wally Berg of Copper Mountain, Colorado, successfully made it to the top of Mount Everest and placed a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver within 18 meters of the mountain's summit. Five days later, another climber retrieved it. When the results were compared to data from other GPS equipment around the mountain, researchers discovered that Everest is growing taller at a rate of up to 5 centimeters per year!

How is that possible? The mountain grows as the Indian continental plate slams into Asia's, pushing the Himalayan mountain chain ever upward at the seam.

Currently, Everest stands at 8,848 meters—and that figure is unlikely to change over the long run because erosion at the summit will compromise any growth.

Vocabulary

  • summit: The highest point or part.

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Activity

  1. What two factors contribute to the changing height of Mount Everest?
    [anno: As the Indian continental plate pushes against the Asian continental plate, the Himalayan mountain chain is pushed upwards. At the same time, the top of Mt. Everest erodes because of weathering. Answers may include that the weathering is mechanical weathering.]
  2. Is the height of Mt. Everest changing slowly or quickly? Write a sentence or two to explain your answer.
    [anno: The height of Mt. Everest is not really changing at all. While it is growing as a result of the continental plates pushing against each other, it is shrinking because of erosion.]
  3. What might the weather conditions at the summit of Mt. Everest be like?
    [anno: The weather conditions at the summit of Mt. Everest are probably cold and very windy.]