USGS Announces New Height for Denali

10 feet shorter than previously thought

Sep 2, 2015
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USGS Announces New Height for Denali

“No place draws more public attention to its exact elevation than the highest peak of a continent," Suzette Kimball, U.S. Geological Survey acting director, said in the announcement.    Nic McPhee / Flickr

Denali is officially 20,310 feet, ten feet shorter than previously thought, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) announced Wednesday in a press release. The news came three days after President Obama announced that he would officially change the name of North America’s tallest mountain from Mount McKinley to Denali. 

The previously accepted elevation of 20,320 feet was based on a survey Bradford Washburn completed in 1953, using photogrammetry, which relied on aerial photography to determine the mountain’s height. (GPS wasn’t available at the time.)

To determine the correct height, researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and survey company CompassData used GPS devices—carried by climbers—to measure the elevation at the mountain’s peak. The project, Denali Summit Survey, was funded by government agencies, including the USGS and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

“No place draws more public attention to its exact elevation than the highest peak of a continent. It is inspiring to think we can measure this magnificent peak with such accuracy," Suzette Kimball, USGS acting director, said in the release. "This is a feeling everyone can share, whether you happen to be an armchair explorer or an experienced mountain climber.”

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