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Humans Causing California's Mountains To Grow

Soulskill posted about 2 months ago | from the not-just-for-evil-masterminds-anymore dept.

Earth 36

New submitter Megan Sever writes: "This is a cool story about anthropogenic effects of water withdrawal moving mountains — literally. According to new research published today (abstract) and reported in EARTH Magazine, humans have been causing the Sierra Nevada mountains to rise. By withdrawing water for irrigation and other purposes, we have inadvertently removed water from the mountains, allowing them to uplift. The research shows a seasonal and annual cycle."

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36 comments

I know it's just the one. (5, Funny)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 2 months ago | (#47003725)

I thought Grand Tetons only swelled when you add liquid to them.

Re:I know it's just the one. (3, Funny)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | about 2 months ago | (#47003965)

Yeah. And don't feed them after midnight.

Landfills too (1)

penguinoid (724646) | about 2 months ago | (#47003741)

Bah, we've been building "mountains" for quite a while already.

Re:Landfills too (2)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | about 2 months ago | (#47003989)

Bah, we've been building "mountains" for quite a while already.

Yes, but no one is talking about the looming molehill shortage!

Cray (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47003755)

You're crazy. But I like you. But you're crazy.

Tectonics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47003815)

I'm certain that plate tectonics have absolutely nothing to do with the rise in the mountains.

Re:Tectonics? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47003951)

I'm certain that plate tectonics have absolutely nothing to do with the rise in the mountains.

Are you trying to dispute an article you clearly haven't read?

Re:Tectonics? (1)

PsyMan (2702529) | about 2 months ago | (#47007221)

First time here?

So it is like global warming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47003911)

only it is completely localized. I'm sure all those folks in CA will be fine with laws banning them from using any irrigation.

We turn it on (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 2 months ago | (#47003913)

Is that a mountain in your pants or are you just happy to see us humans?

I heard somewhere that faith could move mountains (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 months ago | (#47003945)

Maybe faith is just lack of water.

I can see it, I guess... you'd have to have a pretty strong faith to think you could live very long without water, after all.

For each planet {...} (0)

Tablizer (95088) | about 2 months ago | (#47003953)

EARTH Magazine? Do they also publish URANUS Monthly? Finally a venue for goat.se

They'll need higher mountains (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47003955)

When the oceans rise, and the world becomes part of the new order of Undersea Atlantis.

Time to trample them (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47004007)

Well, clearly we need to work on erosion. I'll do my part by going up there and trampling all over them. /s

Global Talling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47004025)

Did you trip up on a previously flat paving stone while walking?

Global Talling is why.

How do they know man's actions cause this? (-1, Redundant)

n2hightech (1170183) | about 2 months ago | (#47004075)

So what data are they using to compare to the current data to determine this is caused by man's actions? The data they have is only a few years worth hardly enough to draw conclusions about effects that happen on a geologic time frame. They even state that the snow pack pushes the mountains down in winter and then as it melts it rises up again. Sounds natural to me and absolutely nothing to do with mans actions.. The other trend is a general uplift thats out pacing the seasonal variations. They say it tracks water withdraw "in their model". This is another example of a model that is unpublished and therefore untestable being used to draw conclusions. The article does say that tecktonic forces may be involved and it is controversial.

Re:How do they know man's actions cause this? (5, Informative)

Layzej (1976930) | about 2 months ago | (#47004513)

Unpublished? It's published right here: http://www.nature.com/nature/j... [nature.com]

So what data are they using to compare to the current data to determine this is caused by man's actions?

They looked at seasonal variations. If seasonal variations are causing a change in elevation, why wouldn't the volume of groundwater lost over the past century and a half also cause a change in elevation? In fact, when they compared the expected changes in elevation with the observed changes they got a pretty good match.

Re:How do they know man's actions cause this? (-1)

NemoinSpace (1118137) | about 2 months ago | (#47004881)

Which proves their expectations were at least as stupid? Did YOU really just proposed that seasonal variation causes mountain building? Because that's what you wrote. My head hurts. And i haven't even started banging it on the desk.

Re:How do they know man's actions cause this? (2)

Layzej (1976930) | about 2 months ago | (#47005257)

As the snow accumulates in the winter the mountain compresses. As it melts in the summer it rises. That is what they found when they measured it. It is a surprising result, and may make your head hurt, but it is what they found.

Re:How do they know man's actions cause this? (2)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 2 months ago | (#47004887)

It may sound natural to you but what you are suggesting sounds like magic to me - spend a century or more removing billions of tons of underground water and nothing changes, not even slightly? The research is published in Nature, you know what to do if you think they are wrong, right?

Re:How do they know man's actions cause this? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47005289)

So did you even try to read the article or are you a moron? You've been posting for a while here, and it's easy to draw the conclusion that you decided what you want to be true before you read it. You even state that you have seen they take into account the natural effects. Sounds like you're a moron to me, and haven't bothered to RTFA. The other thing is that you are talking about something about which you know nothing. You claim to understand yet call thing "unpublished" despite it appearing in Nature. This is another example of an armchair fuckwit jumping to conclusions rather than actually paying attention to what is being said. Your post does say the word "controversial" but what it obvious is that you're just plain stupid.

Re:How do they know man's actions cause this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47008517)

AND you misspelled TECTONIC you TWIT.

Higher Mountains = More Rain (0)

BoRegardless (721219) | about 2 months ago | (#47004089)

Bring it on in the Sierras!

GPS seasonal variations...duuh (1)

jwestveer (1453691) | about 2 months ago | (#47004611)

These guys need to Google "GPS seasonal variations" before they publish.

Re:GPS seasonal variations...duuh (2)

Layzej (1976930) | about 2 months ago | (#47005361)

Why, so they could find out that although it was supposed that hydrologyinduced stresses may be the cause, no one had yet shown it? They might have then performed the very experiment that they did in order to test the hypothesis? But why do you assume they weren't aware of the previous literature?

We are DOOMED...... (1)

woodlandca (807154) | about 2 months ago | (#47004623)

Can you say population control, Hmmm, lets start with the people who conduct these studies...

Re:We are DOOMED...... (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | about 2 months ago | (#47005155)

Can you say population control, Hmmm, lets start with the people who conduct these studies...

With and attitude like that we certainly are doomed.

Like isostasy (3, Informative)

PeterM from Berkeley (15510) | about 2 months ago | (#47004781)

This reminds me of isostasy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isostasy/ [wikipedia.org] --as mountains erode, they rise again due to the buoyancy of the rock underneath them floating upon the magma below.

Pull out the mass of the water, and up go the mountains.

--PeterM

The Dumb Factor (1)

Jim Sadler (3430529) | about 2 months ago | (#47004799)

Now watch all the powers that be in California to strive to attract ever more businesses and new residents to California thus insuring that their tribulations and disasters will grow ever more frequent and vicious in effects. And make note that no political figure will sound off about stopping building permits and asking businesses to leave California. No matter how awful it gets the traditional machine will just keep trying to do the same old, wrong, thing.

Re:The Dumb Factor (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about 2 months ago | (#47004869)

What disasters? The occasional earth quake about once a century and wild fires seems to be the extent of it in CA.

But you are correct, they will not ask businesses or people to leave. They may regulate them out of the state but with an eight percent corporate tax, they will likely stick around for a while. California sort of needs them in order to pay for the wild spending they like to do. It's sort of like the government is at a keg party buying pizza for everyone/.

So, california causes global warming! (1)

drainbramage (588291) | about 2 months ago | (#47005769)

Californication; the clues are in the song.
That's just swell.

but..but..this can't be!!! (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 2 months ago | (#47006751)

Every slashdotter knows no amount of human activity can have any effect whatsoever on the environment around us! That's we rape and pillage every speck of nature around us, it's the truth and beauty of Keynesian economics!

I wouldn't trust a GPS in the milimetric range (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47006791)

Even when i've been working in mapping and topography for the last 15 years.
Maybe for X and Y, but Z is the weakest link, it's highly relative, there are so many things that can give you a fluctuation in that scale that i wouldn't even dare to take those last digits literal, but hell, if they can you published in nature... i will turn creative and give it a shot.

Sometimes common sense is better than peer review.

Re:I wouldn't trust a GPS in the milimetric range (2)

Layzej (1976930) | about 2 months ago | (#47007457)

You are better off with science. Your gut will betray you. If you are interested you should read:

Bar-Sever, Y. E., Kroger, P. M. & Borjesson, J. A. Estimating horizontal gradients of tropospheric path delay with a single GPS receiver. J. Geophys. Res. 103, 5019–5035 (1998)

Blewitt, G. Carrier phase ambiguity resolution for the Global Positioning System applied to geodetic baselines up to 2000 km. J. Geophys. Res. 94, 10187–10283 (1989)

Bertiger, W. et al. Single receiver phase ambiguity resolution with GPS data. J. Geod. 84, 327–337 (2010) Rebischung, P. et al. IGS08: The IGS realization of ITRF2008. GPS Solut. 16, 483–494 (2012)

and of course Amos, C. et al. Uplift and seismicity driven by groundwater depletion in central California. Nature doi:10.1038/nature13275 (2014)

Salton Sea Water Level effects San Andreas Fault (3, Interesting)

Required Snark (1702878) | about 2 months ago | (#47006861)

Historically, the Salon Sea in inland Southern California has long term wet and dry periods. When it is filled with water there tend to be earthquakes in the region of the San Andreas Fault that run through the Salton Sea area. When it is dry there tends to be a much longer period between major quake in this part of the fault.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salton_Sea#Earthquake_geology [wikipedia.org]

The Salton Sea and surrounding basin sits over the San Andreas Fault, San Jacinto Fault, Imperial Fault Zone, and a "stepover fault" shear zone system. Geologists have determined that previous flooding episodes from the Colorado River have been linked to earthquakes along the San Andreas Fault. Sonar and other instruments were used to map the Salton Sea's underwater faults during the study. During the period when the basin was filled by Lake Cahuilla, a much larger inland sea, earthquakes higher than magnitude 7 occurred roughly every 180 years, the last one occurring within decades of the year 1700. Computer models suggest the normal faults in the area are most vulnerable to deviatoric stress loading by filling in of water. Currently, a risk still exists for an earthquake of magnitude 7 or 8. Simulations also showed, in the Los Angeles area, shaking and thus damage would be more severe for a San Andreas earthquake that propagated along the fault from the south, rather than from the north. Such an earthquake also raises the risk for soil liquefaction in the Imperial Valley region.

After the last flood from the Colorado River into the Salton Sea after 1900, a series of dams were built to keep the river from flowing into California. Since then there are been no really large magnitude earthquakes from the San Andreas in Southern California.

It seems extremely likely that human activity has altered the earthquake pattern. This means it is possible that removing large amounts of ground water from the San Joaquin Valley could measurably effect the height of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Sounds Self Reinforcing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47007903)

If I recall my elementary school meteorology correctly, The Sierra Nevada mountains cause water vapor to be precipitated on the western (towards the ocean side) side of the mountains, creating a wet humid climate west of the mountains and a dry arid climate east of the mountains. If the mountains are in fact getting taller, this effect may be amplified, meaning less water getting to the eastern side of the range. Since humans are most likely to be extracting the water from the mountains in order to meet water needs for communities east of the range, they will need to extract more water if the mountains rise and the rising of the mountains causes the eastern side to be more arid. Thus it may be that extracting bound water from the Sierras may end up being a game we could never have won in the long term. Could be interesting to see how it turns out.

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