The drought in the western United States is causing the entire region "rise up like an uncoiled spring," say scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.
The researchers analyzed data from GPS stations around the West, and found what they call an uplift effect of just over 1/2 an inch in the mountains in California. Elsewhere in the region, the rise is about .15 of an inch.
The water deficit is about 62 trillion gallons, the researchers say, which equates to about a 6-inch layer of water spread across the entire western United States.
Scripps researcher Adrian Borsa first noticed that GPS stations from the National Science Foundation's Plate Boundary Observatory were all moving upward, which coincided with the drought.
Duncan Agnew, a Scripps Oceanography geophysics professor, said in a statement that the GPS readings mean the tectonic plate on which the U.S. West sits has rapidly risen. Agnew also said the uplift has no effect on the San Andreas fault and won't result in a greater risk of earthquakes.
The study, supported by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), is published in Thursday's Science.