The Sierra Nevada mountains rose a full inch after the California drought, a major development that has caught scientists' attention.
The California drought that lasted from 2011 through 2014 will go down in the history books, and scientists have discovered it had one other major effect that they weren’t expecting. A NASA study has found that the Sierra Nevada mountains rose by a full inch, or 2.5 centimeters, due to the tremendous water loss in the state.
Using the 1,300 GPS micro-stations that track tectonic motion in faults and volcanoes across California, Oregon, and Washington, NASA was able to determine this increase in height. When scientists looked deeper into the data, they determined that water inside of cracks may have caused the strange development over the period of the drought.
The water eventually returned, and today the mountains aren’t quite as high, but they’re still a half inch taller than they were than before the drought. Interestingly, if the drying trend continues to hold for the next few decades, the mountains could grow even more.
“Loss of water from the rocks of California’s Sierra Nevada caused the mountain range to rise nearly an inch (24 millimeters) in height during the drought years from October 2011 to October 2015, a new NASA study finds,” reads a NASA statement. “In the two following years of more abundant snow and rainfall, the mountains have regained about half as much water in the rock as they had lost in the preceding drought and have fallen about half an inch (12 millimeters) in height.”
“This suggests that the solid Earth has a greater capacity to store water than previously thought,” said research scientist Donald Argus of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who led the study.