The devastating Nepal earthquake was so powerful it shifted the world's highest peak—Mount Everest—by three centimeters. The 7.8-magnitude quake, which killed more than 8,700 people, reversed Everest's northeast course, according to Chinese geologists.
A report by China's National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation found the earthquake caused an avalanche that killed 18 people and damaged its climbing base camp, according to the state-run China Daily newspaper. The mountain, which reaches more than 8,800 meters (29,000 feet) above sea level, sits between China and Nepal. Authorities in both countries have been forced to cancel all climbs planned for this year.
Nepal was hit by two earthquakes, the first on April 25, followed by a second, smaller earthquake on May 12. More than 8,700 people in Nepal were killed and half a million homes were destroyed. Many are living in temporary shelters, which provide little protection against the upcoming monsoon rain.
In the past decade, Mount Everest has moved 40 centimeters to the northeast by four centimeters a year, but the earthquake “made it bounce a little bit in the opposite direction," Xu Xiwei, deputy head of the Institute of Geology at the China Earthquake Administration in Beijing, told China Daily. “The scale of such movement is normal and won't affect life in the area."
The second earthquake had no impact on the mountain, according to the report. Neither earthquakes affected the height of the mountain, which has risen by three centimeters over the past decade.
Researchers study Mount Everest to better understand its tectonic movement and the effect on the terrain. The National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation set up a satellite monitoring system on the peak in 2005.
"By measuring the movement, scientists can learn more about the principles of Earth releasing energy, and measure the scale of the energy being released," Xu said. "Such measurement helps us to locate the source of the tectonic movement and observe when abnormal movement occurs."