After name change, Denali also gets a little shorter

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Sept. 3 (UPI) — Days after the former Mount McKinley was renamed Denali, North America’s highest mountain is also getting a height adjustment.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) said a survey using new technology has revealed Denali is 100 feet shorter than previously thought. The last accepted elevation was 20,320 feet, but the actual figure is 20,310 feet.

In a news release, USGS said Denali hasn’t shrunk. Instead, advances in surveying technology have produced “a more accurate summit height of Alaska’s most magnificent natural treasure.”

USGS said the desire to re-survey the mountain came after a new height of 20,237 was recorded by an airborne radar using an Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar sensor, which it notes is “an extremely effective tool for collecting map data in challenging areas.” But the technology is not accurate when it comes to providing spot or point elevations, the agency said.

The USGS, NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey (NGS) and the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) were the primary sponsors of the survey. The company CompassData also provided three climbers and UAF provided one.

The team began their climb in mid-June, when Denali’s lower sections are warmest. After crossing treacherous sections of the climb — like the “Autobahn” — and risking lethal falls throughout, the team reached the summit on June 24 around 3:15 p.m. At that point, a Zephyr-2 GPS unit was used to measure the height of a single point on the summit identified as the mountain’s peak.

The data returned from the trek was then independently verified by UAF, CompassData and NGS. The three groups met and arrived at the official elevation.

“The NGS is pleased to have worked with such outstanding scientists and come to an agreeable solution on a project of this magnitude,” said Dr. Vicki Childers, chief of NOAA’s NGS Observation and Analysis Division.

The news comes after the mountain’s name was changed from Mount McKinley to Denali. Denali was the traditional, native name of the mountain before it was renamed in 1917 after former President William McKinley.

In addition to being the tallest mountain in the continent, Denali is the third highest mountain in the world and one of the world’s Seven Summits. Denali National Park, where the mountain is found, was established in 1917 and hosts more than 500,000 visitors annually to its 6 million acres of park land and preserve. Approximately 1,200 mountain climbers a year attempt to scale Denali, and about half of those are successful.

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