China Uses Airborne Gravity Survey to Measure Height of Mt. Everest

Over the past couple of months, we had been following the progress of a team of Chinese surveyors who had been sent to Mt. Everest to remeasure the height of the mountain. Last week, we learned that the team successfully reached the summit of the mountain and then proceeded to spend three hours no top as the installed high-tech equipment and collected data. That information will now be used as part of a sophisticated study that will eventually lead to the most accurate measurement of Everest—or likely any other mountain—ever conducted. As it turns out however, those measures still weren’t enough for the survey team.

Earlier in the week, Chinese officials announced that they had also conducted an airborne gravity survey of Everest. Apparently, the flyover took place on Tuesday, with high-tech equipment installed on a special aircraft ahead of time. That equipment is used to measure the density of the ground that the plane is passing over to get a much more accurate rendering of the topography, including the height of the hills, mountains, and valleys below. How accurate you ask? According to researchers, the equipment used on this survey can provide “centimeter-level accuracy.”

In other words, this flight alone could potentially measure the height of the world’s tallest peak down to just a few centimeters. The data collected here will now be added to the ground survey team, which took measurements from various points around the mountain. Of course, the readings will be combined with those taken at the summit too, with all of the information getting compiled together to create an incredibly detailed and accurate measurement of the mountain. The survey team says that it expects to release its findings in about three months time.

Currently, the official height of Mt. Everest stands at 8848 meters (29,029 ft). What those numbers will be after the survey team has completed its work remains to be seen. My guess is that it will stay very close to those current numbers, but we’ll get a granular reading that will tell us not just how many meters, but also centimeters, and possibly millimeters it is in height. There is also some debate as to whether or not to include the amount of ice on the summit as part of the total. It reportedly adds 3-4 meters, which from a mountaineering standpoint must be overcome to reach the summit. But from a geological standpoint, that ice doesn’t necessarily mean much at all.

Perhaps we should open a betting pool to see who can come the closest to guessing the height. We’ll of course share the results when they are eventually released.

3 thoughts on “China Uses Airborne Gravity Survey to Measure Height of Mt. Everest”

  1. I stand to be corrected but I think that there was a survey done a few years ago and they measured 8852m or something like this – just a few cm higher than the familiar 8848m. It will be interesting to see what figure this team releases.

    We had an adventure racing team here in SA called Team 8848 (bunch of climbers) and when the new measurement was announced, I recall the teasing that they received about needing to change their team name.

  2. I know that Nat Geo did a measurement in the early 2000s I believe that had the height at 8850. The organization still recognizes that altitude as its official number, even though Nepal and Tibet peg it at 8848 meters. It will indeed be interesting to see how this comes out with the new measurements for sure.

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