BEIJING: A devastating earthquake that hit Nepal in April moved Mount Everest three centimetres to the southwest, but did not change its height, according to Chinese research published on Tuesday.
The 7.6-Richter quake reversed the gradual northeasterly course of the world’s highest peak, which straddles Nepal and China, the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation found. But its height — usually given as 8,848 metres — was unchanged by the disaster, according to the research, published in Chinese state media.
The report said Everest had moved 40 centimetres to the northeast over the past decade at a speed of four centimetres a year, and risen three centimetres over the same period. Nepal rests on a major fault line between two tectonic plates — one bearing India pushing northward into a plate carrying Europe and Asia at a rate of about two centimetres per year — the process that created the Himalayas.
Roger Bilham, professor of geological science at the University of Colorado, agreed with the Chinese findings.
But he said the focus should not be on Everest, calling the peak “a lump of uneroded rock that just happens to have survived a little bit higher than all the other rocks in the Himalaya”. “The Everest region was a mere bystander, and was pulled slightly by this movement by a few centimetres south and a little bit down,” he told AFP in an email.
Scientists say the densely populated Kathmandu Valley, around 80 kilometres southeast of the epicentre, moved s
outh by nearly two metres during the quake. Nepal’s government said it had not yet studied the impact on Everest but that quake-affected areas had moved south.
“We have been studying the core areas affected by the quake and there has been a general southward movement,” said Madhu Sudan Adhikari, head of the survey department in Nepal’s land ministry. “Kathmandu has shifted south by over 1.5 metres and was uplifted by nearly a metre.” Everest’s official height of 8,848 metres was determined by an Indian survey in 1954, but other measurements have varied by several metres.
China measures the peak four metres lower — by excluding the snowcap — while in 1999 an American team using GPS technology recorded a height of 8,850 m, a figure used by the US National Geographic Society.