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Satellite images: Mount Everest actually shrank after the Nepal quake

Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world, with an altitude of 8,848 meters (29,028 feet), is seen in this aerial view taken from a passenger aircraft flying over Nepal at a height of 9,144 meters (30,000 feet), November 9, 2008. Everest is part of the Himalayan mountain range along the border of Nepal and Tibet. In background is the Tibetan Plateau. Picture taken November 9, 2008. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan (NEPAL) - RTXAG2Q
Reuters/Desmond Boylan
Everest, now an inch shorter.
By Zach Wener-Fligner

2014-15 Fellow. Quartz Things team.

This article is more than 2 years old.

The devastation wrought by the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal April 25 has been severe. The quake killed nearly 8,000, injured more than 17,000, and destroyed some several million homes.

It also shrunk Mount Everest, the tallest peak in the world, by about one inch, according to data collected in the days after the earthquake by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1A satellite. The change was detected using a method known as seismic interferometry, which essentially compares radar signals detected at different dates.

Seismic interferometry generates pictures known as interferograms, which show land displacement. In this interferogram, which was made by combining satellite images from April 17 and April 29, each colorful “fringe” indicates a displacement of about an inch:

ESA

Other areas near the earthquake were raised up by three feet, according to Leeds geophysicist Tim Wright. Some land also shifted laterally in a north-south direction by as much as seven feet.

It’s worth noting that these measurements aren’t perfectly precise. Roger Bilham, a geologist at the University of Colorado, told the Huffington Post that he suspects the actual shrinkage of Everest from the quake is more like one or two millimeters.

In general, the Himalayan mountain range, which includes Everest, rises at a rate of about half an inch per year due to the convergence of the Indian Plate and the Eurasian Plate, the tectonic plate below the eponymous land masses.

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