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Question Your World: What Moves the World's Biggest Mountain?

Mt. Everest

The roof of our planet is located in Nepal. Mt. Everest is the world’s largest mountain clocking in at nearly 29,000 feet (5.5 miles high). Clearly moving something as massive as this giant hunk of rock would require something much greater than any human invention ever created. Recently Mt. Everest has moved an inch to the southwest. What moves the world’s biggest mountain? Listen to this Question Your World radio report produced by the Science Museum of Virginia to learn more.

Geysers, sink holes, and volcanoes are just a few examples of Earth’s geologic activity. Since our planet is alive and well we often get to experience its motions. Every now and then we face the devastating power of the Earth’s natural activity.

In April of 2015 Nepal was struck by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. This catastrophic event caused a lot of harm to the citizens and infrastructure there. The world was in shock as it watched the nation pull itself out of the rubble in the wake of one of the largest geologic stirrings in recent history. This was such a big quake that Nepal is still finding things that were impacted and so are scientists.

Once the aftershocks had quelled, geologists started to look at the impact of this massive occurrence. Remarkably this quake was strong enough to shift one of the largest objects on our planet, Mt. Everest. The king of all mountains on Earth was shifted an inch southwest during this shift in the Earth’s crust.

While this is a pretty incredible happening we do have to keep in mind that the Earth has done many impressive things in the past. For example, in September of 2013 another earthquake shifted the Arabian plate causing an island to appear in the Arabian Sea. Vast amounts of mud were pushed up from the sea floor when a 7.7 magnitude quake took place in costal Baluchistan, Pakistan. While this muddy island will be short lived (tidal forces will wash it away over time) many other side effects of Earth's natural activity last longer, like the shifted position of this massive mountain. Keep in mind that a long time ago life itself was absent from earth, but after the right series of events conditions were lined up in such a way that life could exist initially here.

The Earth’s motions and activities are very much tied to how life can function here. This is our home and we do have to be aware that as residents on this planet we are subject to any and all changes it may have in store for us. We have many songs and poems that describe how love can move mountains, but occasionally we’re shown the awesome ability of the Earth to literally move mountains.

To help those impacted by this massive quake please visit the United Nation’s humanitarian affairs website: unocha.org/nepal.