The record-setting floods that resulted from Hurricane Harvey are difficult to conceptualize. The hurricane is set to become one of the costliest natural disasters in history. It dumped roughly 33 trillion gallons of water across the area it hit, which amounted to adding 275 trillion pounds of weight to the landmass.
It's easy to get lost in numbers like these, so scientist Chris Milliner of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory decided to put things in more tangible terms. He calculated that the water weight dumped by Harvey was so voluminous that Earth's crust actually gave way and collapsed by roughly two centimeters, reports The Atlantic. The planet's crust actually warped under the weight of it all.
If that seems impossible, consider that the water weight from Harvey's rainfall was essentially equivalent to 77 percent of the total estimated mass of Mount Everest. Imagine dropping a mountain like Everest anywhere on the planet's surface.
Interestingly, Milliner also found that the Earth's crust was actually pushed up in some of the areas surrounding Houston. The reason for this is similar to what happens when you press your fist into a ball of dough; the dough under your fist gets compacted, but the areas around your fist puff up.
This isn't the first time scientists have measured the effects of water weight on the planet's crust. For instance, mountains like the Himalayas can be reduced in height seasonally by large amounts of snowfall. China's Three Gorges Dam has backed up so much water that it has caused small earthquakes to occur.
Earthquakes aren't a concern in Houston, but it's alarming to think of the ways that so much rainfall can effect a region's geology.
The good news is that the ground depressed by Harvey's floodwaters should rebound as those waters recede, though it's safe to say that the exact warping and contour of the land may never be exactly the same again.