The deadly 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal in April and killed thousands of people was so powerful it moved Mount Everest.
The quake, which hit Nepal on April 25, devastated the city of Kathmandu and caused an avalanche on Everest. But the shaking also shifted the massive peak about an inch to the southwest, reversing the direction it was naturally and slowly moving. That’s all according to a survey by China’s National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation, which state media reported on Monday, June 15.
Even though the massive mountain shifted, its height — just over 29,000 feet — stayed the same. And several other surrounding mountains moved as well.
Everest, located in the Himalayas on the border between China and Nepal, is world’s tallest mountain (unless you’re measuring from beneath the ocean.) It was created roughly 60 millions years ago when the Indian tectonic plate smashed up against the Eurasian plate.
Since then, Everest has moved about 1.6 inches and gotten about 0.1 inches taller each year, reports state news agency Xinhua. That means that, just the past decade, the hulking peak has crept over a foot and grown about an inch taller!
AP Photo/Jody Kurash
This Oct. 21, 2005 file photo shows Mount Everest from an aerial view taken over Nepal. Senior mountaineering guide, Ang Tshering, said an avalanche swept the face of Mt. Everest after the massive earthquake, Saturday April 25, 2015 while government officials say at least 30 people have been injured on the mountain.
Normally, the massive, tectonic plates resting beneath India and Eurasia are “locked together,” so they move as one,
Richard Briggs, a geologist at the US Geological Survey (USGS) in Golden, Colorado, told Business Insider. In between quakes, there’s a steady buildup of strain energy as India pushes into Eurasia, slowly shoving the high Himalayas toward Tibet.
But during the quake, that motion was suddenly reversed, and Everest was pushed in the opposite direction.
The quake caused the ground to deform, and some areas above the fault — such as Kathmandu — got pushed upward, while others further north got pushed downward. Everest, Briggs thinks, may have been on the edge of that downward trough.
Everest wasn’t the only peak affected by the quake. And while Everest’s height didn’t change, other peaks closer to Kathmandu suddenly shrunk, getting dramatically shorter, said Briggs.
Together with an aftershock that happened in May, the two Nepal earthquakes killed more than 8,700 people. The April quake also caused an avalanche on Mount Everest that killed 18 people,
the Times reported.
But the Nepal earthquake isn’t the only one to move mountains. The giant earthquakes that hit Japan in 2011 and Chile in 2010 caused several big volcanoes to sink by up to 6 inches, according to two studies published in the journal Nature Geoscience in 2013.
Still, these movements are negligible compared with the larger movements that occur over geologic time, Briggs said.