Western US Rises Owing to Drought


Extreme drought that is affecting the western part of the United States in recent times, is influencing the water restrictions pertaining to residence, thereby causing problems for wildlife and crops. Not only that, it is bringing about a number of changes in the landscape by leading to rise in the level of the land in terms of elevation.

Scientists working in UC San Diego based Scripps Institution of Oceanography found out that the broad-scale; growing loss of water is leading to elevation in the land level of total western US. This discovery was made during the investigation of the ground positioning data retrieved from the GPS stations.

Scripps researchers Dan Cayan, Duncan Agnew and Adrian Borsa found out that owing to the water shortage, the land is being uplifted by 15 millimeters (which is more than half an inch) in the mountains of California and an approximate of four millimeters (around 0.15 of an inch) in the west. From the data retrieved from the GPS, it is estimated that the water deficit is around 240 gigatons (which is equivalent to 63 trillion gallons of water), amounting to a layer of water of around four inches that is spread out across the total western US.

While browsing through a range of data sets pertaining to ground positions, Scripps assistant research geophysicist Borsa, came across a similar pattern over the period spanning from


2003 to 2014. Considering the most recent years, almost every station moved upwards, which coincided with the occurrence of the present drought.

Another geophysics professor of Scripps Oceanography, Agnew, reports that the data pertaining to the GPS can be explained only through the speedy uplift occurring in the tectonic plate over which the western part of the US rests. According to Agnew, the material is like a sponge in the regions which have deep soil. With the drying of the water, it goes down or shrinks. He further compares the earth to a spring and says that when water fails to press upon an area any more, that particular area rises, and that’s what is exactly taking place in western US.

According to Cayan, a Scripps and USGS research meteorologist, the results bring to light a completely new picture of the appalling hydrological state of the western US. Cayan says that the results obtained highlight the amount of water mass that is lost during the last few years. The reports are also representative of a potent and new way for tracking of water resources across a considerably huge landscape. The critical California snowpack and Sierra Nevada Mountains are areas that call for good amount of focus. The results reveal that this method can be utilized to study any kind of alterations taking place in fresh water stocks in different regions across the globe, in case these places possess a network of GPS sensors.

The results of the study, that received support from the US Geological Survey (USGS), are available appear in the online edition of the journal Science, dated 21st August, 2014.

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