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Mount McKinley's Gotten Shorter Again

Could Alaska's Mount McKinley be in danger of developing a Napoleon complex?

Well, it's still said to be the tallest peak in North America, so perhaps it won't need to worry about its height just yet. But for the second time in recent decades, the mountain's been shortened.

This week's announcement by Alaska's lieutenant governor, Mead Treadwell, that the U.S. Geological Survey now thinks McKinley is 20,237 feet tall rather than 20,320 is getting plenty of attention:

-- "Say it ain't so!" writes Alaska Dispatch.

-- "McKinley's perch as the tallest mountain in North America just got a little less comfortable," says the Anchorage Daily News.

McKinley is also known as Denali. According to Treadwell's office:

"Denali's elevation was originally measured to stand 20,320 feet in 1952, based on photogrammetry. A 1989 field survey recorded an elevation of 20,306 feet — 14 feet shorter than the 1952 recording.

"The 2012 revision of 20,327 feet was recorded with radar technology deployed as a result of Alaska's Statewide Digital Mapping Initiative (SDMI), which also revealed that an entire ridgeline of Mt. Dickey in Denali National Park was missing from previous maps — one of many discrepancies corrected by recent map updates.

"The State of Alaska invested $9.59 million in SDMI since 2010, and the federal government has invested $14 million toward the overall cost of creating a digital elevation model for Alaska. The initiative, nearly 50% complete, is on schedule for statewide completion by 2016."

Which mountain is still North America's No. 2? It's thought to be Canada's Mount Logan, which comes in around 19,550 feet.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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