The NewsDemon Blog

Newsgroups: Quake Shifted Axis And Shortened Day

March 2nd, 2010


Feeling behind as if time is working against you? You may be right. Due to the magnitude of the earthquake that hit Chile recently, it may have changed the planet’s rate of rotation and shortened our days. The 8.8 earthquake has been reported by NASA scientists on space related newsgroups that earth’s axis likely shifted by about 3 inches, shortening the day by about 1.26 microseconds.

USENET newsgroups have been covering this story and have been discussing on how moving hundreds of kilometers of rock underground can change the earth’s distribution of mass, and, in turn, change the planet’s rate of rotation. When an earthquake hits with the magnitude of the one in Chile, it moves this lot of rock under the ground which has caused the earth’s axis to slightly shift and shortening the day, as the rate of speed the earth spins is how we calculate how long the day is.

If you remember your physics, changes in rotating bodies affect its rotation. The huge 8.8 earthquake in Chile has affected our rotating Earth in just such a way, making it turn a bit faster and giving us 1.26 microseconds less of time.

Some changes may be more obvious, and islands may have shifted, according to Andreas Rietbrock, a professor of Earth Sciences at the U.K.’s Liverpool University who has studied the area impacted, though not since the latest temblor. She reports that Santa Maria Island off the Chilean coast may have been raised 6 feet because of the earthquake, if past quake patterns hold true.

This is not the first, or only, time an earthquake has had such an impact, USENET newsgroups notes. The magnitude 9.1 earthquake that generated the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami shortened the day by 6.8 microseconds. The consequences of both have also taken the lives of many. More than 700 people died in the Chilean earthquake, which struck on the 27 February. NASA experts have said the Chile predictions will likely change as data on the quake are further refined.