Well here’s something we didn’t see coming: Extreme drought can cause mountains to behave like grow-your-own dinosaurs. But instead of expanding in water, the mountains swell when they dry out, according to a new study published in Science.
Parts of California’s mountains have risen as much as 15 millimeters in the past 18 months as a result of the state’s ongoing drought, according to the researchers. Land without water causes it to “rise a bit like an uncoiled spring,” explains Bobby Magill of Climate Central. Here’s more:
The drought that is devastating California and much of the West has dried the region so much that 240 gigatons worth of surface and groundwater have been lost, roughly the equivalent to a 3.9-inch layer of water over the entire West, or the annual loss of mass from the Greenland Ice Sheet, according to the study.
While some of California’s mountains have risen by about 0.6 inches since early 2013, the West overall has risen by an average of about 0.157 inches.
“Groundwater is a load on the Earth’s crust,” said Klaus Jacob, a seismologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y., who is unaffiliated with the study. “A load compresses the crust elastically, hence it subsides. When you take that load away (by the drought) the crust decompresses and the surface rises.”
With the drought still ravaging farmland and cities, let’s hope Californians use only recycled water for their disappointing expanding kitsch.
- Epic Drought in West is Literally Moving Mountain, Climate Central
- Severe Drought is Causing the Western U.S. to Rise, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego
Get Grist in your inbox