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Study: Sierra Nevada Mountains Rising Due To Groundwater Pumping

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory / AP
 

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory / AP

The Sierra Nevada mountains are getting higher, and they're are being pushed by human activity, according to an article published this week in the journal "Nature." 

The Sierra’s 10,000 foot peaks are getting taller because of groundwater pumping, according to scientists in Nevada, California and Washington. They correlated falling ground water levels with GPS measurements showing rising altitudes in the Sierra.

Geology Research Professor Bill Hammond of the University of Nevada Reno says pumping in the Central Valley has extracted the equivalent of all the water in Lake Tahoe. With the weight of that water gone, the ground lifts up.

When water is pulled out of the ground on such a massive scale by so many people at the same time, it has an effect and that affects the shape of the solid earth," says Hammond. "Water is disappearing and it is unloading the earths lithosphere and essentially causing an anthropogonic tectonic uplift.

The pumping is also causing more earthquakes in the summer and fewer in the winter. Hammond says now geologists are testing to see if the trends increase as people pump more water to cope with drought.

 environmentdroughtcentral valleysierra nevadauniversity of nevada renogroundwater pumping