Ask anyone what the highest point on the planet is, and they’ll likely respond with the Himalayas’ famous Mount Everest. And indeed, it is: Mount Everest stands 29,029 ft (8,848 meters) above sea level. But this well-known bit of knowledge is based on the old assumption that the Earth is a sphere, when, in fact, it actually isn’t quite that round. When one takes this factor into account, Everest’s reign at the top of the world appears to to come up short.
Because of the centrifugal force created by it’s 1037 mph (1,670 kph) rotational speed, the Earth is actually an oblate spheroid, bulging slightly at the equator, and flattening at the poles. This effect isn’t that pronounced — the diameter of the Earth is only 26.58 miles (42.77 km) greater when measured across the equator as opposed to the poles — but this 13.3 mile difference can make all the difference when measuring the heights of mountains from the Earth’s center. And since Mount Everest is at a latitude of 28º north, that means that mountains at the equator can get a boost by quite a few miles.
That brings us to Ecuador’s Mount Chimborazo, rising 20,548 ft (6,263 meters) above sea level, falling short of Everest’s height by a full 8,481 ft. But since the oceans are warped into an oblate spheroid shape by Earth’s spin as well, sea levels are higher at the equator, and Chimborazo’s peak is nearly directly on that latitude, handicapping it’s height when measured from the ocean. But when measured from the center of the Earth, Chimborazo soars to 3,967.1 miles (6,384.4 km) high, a full 7,113 ft (2,168 m) higher than Everest’s 3,965.8 mile (6,382.3 km) peak. This technicality has officially made Mount Chimborazo the closest point on Earth to the Sun — although mountain climbers scaling Everest will still have to hike an extra 1.3 miles to reach it’s summit.
However, as residents of Hawai’i might proudly point out, their island is the tallest mountain on Earth, nearly 10,000 feet taller than Everest. But since it’s base lies at the bottom of the Pacific Basin, the altitude of Mauna Kea’s peak is at a much more easily reached 13,796 ft (4,205 m) above sea level.
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