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Snow cover on Mt Everest much thicker than previously determined

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(TibetanReview.net, Jul11’23) – The snow cover atop Qomolangma, the Chinese rendition of the Tibetan name Jomolangma for the world’s highest peak, Mt Everest, has been determined to be much, much thicker than previously measured. The peak straddles the border between Chinese ruled Tibet and Nepal.

Using ground-penetrating radar, Chinese scientists have said the mean depth estimates were 9.5 metres at the summit, with a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 meters. Previous measurements had pegged the depth at between 0.9 and 3.5 meters, reported China’s official chinadaily.com.cn Jul 11.

The report said scientists carried out the measurement during China’s second comprehensive scientific expedition to the Tibetan Plateau in 2022. The survey results were published on Jul 7 in the journal The Cryosphere.

Surveying the snow thickness, which was among the expedition’s main tasks, and its changes is seen as of immense scientific value in the study of global climate change. The subject is one of concern to both the scientific community and the public, the report said.

“As the pinnacle of the world, the depth of snow atop the Qomolangma has been of much interest all over the world. The change in snow thickness provides accurate base data for studying future climate change,” Yao Tandong, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and team leader of the latest expedition, has said, adding that without this data, it is impossible to determine whether the snow depth is increasing or decreasing.

“The survey results will provide empirical support for the study of dynamic changes in the ultrahigh altitude cryosphere and the lithosphere at the top of Qomolangma, and also provide a new direction for a deeper understanding of ultrahigh altitude climate change,” Yao has said.

The depth of the snow atop the world’s highest peak was determined to be 0.92 metres by Chinese climbers in 1975, was updated to 2.55 metres by a China-Italy joint climbing team in 1992, and then to 3.5 metres by Chinese climbers using radars in 2005. In 2019 and 2020, China and Nepal carried out separate surveys to measure the snow depth, but no results were published, as the two sides differed on the exact height of Mt Everest.

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