Chile earthquake shifted earth’s axis, made days shorter

Posted: March 3, 2010 in natural disasters
Tags: , , ,

Powerful Chile Quake ‘Shifted Earth’s Axis’
Sky News Online 3 March 2010

The powerful (8.8) earthquake that killed hundreds of people in Chile on Saturday probably shifted the Earth’s axis and made days slightly shorter, a Nasa scientist has said.

If the planet’s axis did shift by 8cm during the quake, days would have shortened by 1.26 microseconds, Mr Gross calculated. A microsecond is one-millionth of a second.

Earth days are 24 hours long because that is the amount of time it takes the planet to make one full rotation on its axis, so shifting the axis would affect rotation. The quake shifted the Earth’s axis by even more than the 9.1-magnitude tremor off Indonesia that started the deadly tsunami in Asia in 2004, according to Mr Gross.

This was partly because the fault line responsible for the quake in Chile “dips into Earth at a slightly steeper angle than does the fault responsible for the 2004 Sumatran earthquake”, he said. The different angle made Saturday’s tremor more effective at moving Earth’s mass vertically and shifting the planet’s axis, Mr Gross continued.

The 2004 quake in Asia, which killed hundreds of thousands of people, caused the Earth to move by around 7cm. It chopped an estimated 6.8 microseconds off the length of a day, Nasa said.

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