Environment & Science

Loss of water in drought caused Sierra Nevada to rise, study says

The Sierra Nevada range rose almost an inch during California's recent drought due to loss of water from within fractured rocks.
The Sierra Nevada range rose almost an inch during California's recent drought due to loss of water from within fractured rocks.
trailkrum, CC-BY-2.0

A new NASA study says loss of water from rocks during drought caused California's Sierra Nevada to rise nearly an inch in height from October 2011 to October 2015.

The study also found that in the following two years of increased snow and rain, the rocks in the range regained about half as much water as was lost during the drought and the height of the mountains has fallen about half an inch.

Research leader Donald Argus of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is discussing the study Wednesday at an American Geophysical Union conference in New Orleans.

The study suggests significantly more water was lost from cracks and soil within fractured mountain rock during drought and gained during heavy precipitation than hydrology models show.