Report: Sierra Nevada Mountains Grew an Inch Taller During the Drought

Although I grew up spending my Saturday mornings watching Bill Nye the Science Guy, I can firmly admit that I am no scientist. But I think we can all admit that science can be pretty cool.

So when I found out that NASA is saying that the Sierra Nevada mountains grew nearly an inch from 2011-2015 during the drought, I said to myself “well, that doesn’t make any sense.” Again, I’m not a scientist. Here is the blurb:

Los Angeles Times – Researchers used 1,300 GPS stations throughout the mountain range to closely observe how its elevation changed during the drought. They used the differences in height to estimate that 10.8 cubic miles of water were lost from the mountains between October 2011 and October 2015, enough to supply Los Angeles with water for 45 years.

“This suggests that the solid earth has a greater capacity to store water than previously thought,” said Donald Argus, a JPL research scientist.

“Water sits atop solid earth like weight on a bathroom scale, Argus said. Mountains give way slightly when snow, water and other precipitation accumulate on the surface, shrinking in height. When the water is taken away, like during California’s recent drought, the mountains lose water weight, and grow.”

“As drought conditions sapped the Sierra of water between October 2011 and October 2015, the mountain range rose 24 millimeters, or nearly an inch. Since October 2015, the Sierra has regained about half of the water lost during the drought and shrank a half-inch.”

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That is so freakin cool. The earth is like a sponge, shrinking when when it’s full of water and expanding when it dries out. No wonder that hike seemed a little longer during the drought…

Researchers have known that mountains shrink and grow for some time now, but they always believed it was due to tectonic movements. This new study can significantly grow our understanding of mountain waters and where the water goes, how it’s stored in the earth and learn new ways to use it in case of another drought.

I think what’s so cool about science is the fact that scientists thought they were studying tectonic movements in the earth, but it pivoted to a study about water storage in the mountains.

Science is fickle. Is it too late for me to become a rocket scientist?

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California

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