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GPS discovers the West is so dry, it's rising

California mountains dry lake
Alan Majchrowicz | Stone | Getty Images
California mountains dry lake

California's mountains are rising. Like an uncoiled spring, they have moved up by more than half an inch (15 millimeters), thanks to the absence of water to weigh them down, according to a new study in the journal Science.

Initially, the Global Positioning System (GPS) stations that discovered this fact were meant to study earthquakes. Researchers noticed something strange, however, when they looked at the data: The stations were rising across the West by an average of 0.15 of an inch (4 millimeters) and even more in the mountains.

This "uplift" effect was a consequence of the historic drought hitting California and nearby areas, researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego said.

How much water is missing from the ground? Nearly 63 trillion gallons, which is equal to a four-inch pool of water spread across the surface of the entire Western United States.

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Read MoreBuzzkill! Drought saps California honey production

—By NBC News' Keith Wagstaff

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