News Release

EARTH: Protracted drought threatens California levees

Peer-Reviewed Publication

American Geosciences Institute

Alexandria, VA - We're most accustomed to flooding causing levees to fail, like they did in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. So although the El Nino-induced floods are making the most news in California right now, it's not actually the floods that are threatening some California levees the most. Instead it's the severe drought over the last four years that has taken its toll on thousands of kilometers of century-old earthen levees.

While it seems counterintuitive to have drought causing levee failure, a new study suggests that the changing climatic conditions affect the shear strength of the soil. A similarly extreme drought in Australia caused levee failures during the late 1990s and 2000s. Explore this study and the challenges drought poses to levees in EARTH Magazine:

The April Issue of EARTH Magazine is erupting with exciting news from around the geoscience community, such as a feature story on Iceland's volatile volcanoes and a study suggesting that aviation is whitening the sky. Explore the lunar atmosphere, delve inside an Ichthyosaur's brain and much more at


Keep up to date with the latest happenings in Earth, energy and environment news with EARTH Magazine online at: Published by the American Geosciences Institute, EARTH is your source for the science behind the headlines.

The American Geosciences Institute is a nonprofit federation of geoscientific and professional associations that represents more than 250,000 geologists, geophysicists and other earth scientists. Founded in 1948, AGI provides information services to geoscientists, serves as a voice of shared interests in the profession, plays a major role in strengthening geoscience education, and strives to increase public awareness of the vital role the geosciences play in society's use of resources, resiliency to natural hazards, and interaction with the environment.

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