USGS takes Denali down a notch

Photo: National Park Service
Photo: National Park Service

Just days after being officially named Denali, North America’s highest peak received a new height estimate from the U.S. Geological Survey on Wednesday.

The new official height for the mountain is 20,310 feet, a reduction of ten feet from the previous estimate taken in the 1950s. The mountain itself hasn’t shrunk. Rather, scientists today have more sophisticated means of measuring elevation than in the mid-20th century.

The decision to resurvey the mountain came in 2013, after a radar-mapping tool estimated Denali’s height at 20,237 feet.

The USGS says that mapping tool is very useful, but not always accurate for the height of specific objects. The best way to determine the elevation of the summit is to do it the old-fashioned way. The USGS sent a team of climbers with GPS and other tools on an expedition earlier this year.

The team reached the summit, placed the instruments, and returned safely. Denali’s new, slightly lower, height still leaves it comfortably ahead of the continent’s second highest peak, Mt. Logan in Canada.