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Posted: August 23, 2014

Western U.S. drought caused Earth's crust to rise


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By Ben Lawsom

A crippling drought in the western United States has lifted the Earth's crust by nearly a sixth of an inch in that region and just over half an inch in California's mountains.

The loss of 63 trillion gallons of groundwater—enough to cover the United States, west of the Rocky Mountains, in four inches of water—caused the shift. 

In addition to this information, a study published in the journal Science on Thursday also shows that the soil is rising due to a lack of groundwater to weigh it down.

One of the study's authors explained to LiveScience: "It's the same as if you had a block of rubber and you pushed down on it with your finger. If you take your finger off, it comes back up."

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The Scripps Institution of Oceanography conducted the research by taking measurement using GPS stations across the western United States.

The entire western U.S. has faced a severe drought over the past year and a half, with California hit particularly hard. The Los Angeles Times writes that 2013 was the state's driest in at least 119 years.

Things are pretty bad over at the nation's largest reservoir, Lake Mead, too. This report from KGET shows what locals call "the bathtub line," which is where the lake's water line used to be.

Scientists also say that even though this drought has caused tectonic plates underneath the region to rise, it does not increase the chance for earthquakes.

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