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Drought makes western United States rise

The severe drought condition that has plagued the western United States since 2013 has produced a significant elevation of the land mass in the West. Adrian Antal Borsa, Duncan Carr Agnew, and Daniel R. Cayan from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California at San Diego and the U. S. Geological Survey confirmed this never before documented event. The research was published in the Aug. 21, 204, edition of the journal Science.

The Folsom South Canal flows through dry land on August 19, 2014, in Mather, California. As the severe drought in California continues for a third straight year, water levels in the State's lakes and reservoirs is reaching historic lows.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The researchers GPS systems to document the rise in the land mass in the western United States that has resulted from the drought. The mountains in California have risen by about one-half of an inch and the entire land mass of the western United States has increased in elevation by 0.15 inches. The loss of underground water that supports the land mass has produced a rapid rise in the tectonic plate that supports the western U. S. The effect has been documented from Montana down the West Coast of the U. S. into Nevada, Arizona, and Mexico.

The researchers note that this change does not indicate any impending danger of earthquakes. There has been no major effect on the San Andreas Fault. The discovery does provide a new method of gauging the impact of droughts in the future.

The western United States has lost about 62 trillion gallons of water. This is over 450 trillion pounds of water. Some localized areas of California have lost five times the average amount of water and incurred equivalent increases in elevation of the land in those areas. The estimates of water loss were confirmed by other methods in order to check the validity of the rise in land mass that has occurred.

California may not tumble into the sea but continuing drought could make the entire western U. S. higher than it has been in recent history. The research confirms the validity of the present GPS monitoring stations in accessing the changes in the Earth that result from different climate conditions. The rise in the West has probably happened several times in the past. This is the first documentation of the effect of drought on elevation of land masses.

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