Have you ever wondered what the top of the Washington Monument looks like close up? Or questioned how high it is? While the magnificent obelisk is closed to the public for repairs right now, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had the rare opportunity to climb to the tippy top and get a new and accurate height measurement of it this past month. Here’s the view that almost no one gets to see:
The Monument, which was built between 1848 and 1884, is a tribute to George Washington. (More on its history here) Its current official height is 555 feet, 5 1/8 inches from top to bottom.
But, it has been measured several times over the years with different results. For example, in 1998 it was measured at 555 feet, and in 2000 at 555 feet 5 1/2”. So, why the discrepancy?
Settling of the earth could be a factor over the years. After all, D.C. was built on swampy ground. Some question whether or not the earthquake in August of 2011 caused sinking. But, it could also have to do with the technique used for measuring.
Technology allows for much better accuracy and the 2013 measurement will have a margin of error of only 1-2 millimeters.
- Measurements from the Ground. (Photo: NOAA)
One known recorded height change was caused by storms over the years. In 1934, it was documented that the aluminum tip had been burned by lightning and was now squared, meaning ¾”-7/8” had been burned off.
- November 19, 1934 National Geodetic Survey. (Photo: NOAA)
The results of the recent measurement will be released in early 2014. Also, in the spring of 2014 the scaffolding will be down and the Washington Monument is scheduled to be open to the public to get that amazing view of our city.
However, the public won’t be allowed to the very top to get the unique view we wanted to share with you today. It is undetermined how long before anyone will be back at the "tip" or when it will be measured again. You may not want to go up there anyway, especially in winter... the top of the Washington Monument is on average 2 degrees Fahrenheit colder than at the base (if you use standard lapse rate of 6.5 degree Celsius drop per 1000 meters of height).
Winds also increase with height. For complete details on the survey, check out more photos and Q & A from NOAA on this link.