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Southern California actually ‘breathe’ the water

Credit: Bryan Riel, and Mark Simons

To survive, people need to breathe oxygen. But in order for Southern California to thrive, it must breathe… water?

Researchers from the California Institute of Technology (mit) have collected hundreds of satellite images from 1992 to 2011. The images are converted to GIF, to show how the land in the southern part of the world’s fifth largest economy rises and falls when the groundwater is pumped in and out of the aquifers under the surface.

“What we see through the rise and fall of the surface of the soil, the elastic response of the country to regular changes in groundwater levels,” says lead author Bryan Riel in a statement.

Riel, who is now a geophysicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, continued: “Because we have data over a long period of time, we were also able to isolate the long-term surface deformation signals, including subsidence of the ground seems to be caused by compaction of the clay layers in response to the background variations in groundwater abstraction.”

The results of the findings are published in the April 20 edition of Water Resources Research.

The data, which was captured by the radar of the European Space Agency, focuses on the San Fernando to Irvine, just a few minutes north of California’s beautiful Newport Beach in Orange County. The groundwater in this area much of the water for the state of the local farms and residents throughout the year.

During an impressive visual nonetheless, the change is actually less dramatic than in years past. This is due to the supervisors to focus more on the replenishment of the aquifers and less on the guitar.

“At the beginning of the study, we see large sinusoids—higher highs and lower lows,” said Caltech Mark Simons in the statement. “In the direction of the later half of the study, that flattens out a bit, indicating that the water control districts were more active management of groundwater, and make sure that water back in, instead of just taking it.”

The change in the fluctuations started after Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Sustainable groundwater management Act into law in 2014, which says that “the groundwater managers need to prevent the permanent lowering of the ground level.”

Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia

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