Chile Quake Shifted Earth's Axis, Shortened Day
Moving masses of rock by several meters affects rotation
By Emily Rauhala, Newser User
Posted Mar 2, 2010 4:50 AM CST
Updated Mar 2, 2010 7:46 AM CST
Survivors survey the damage in Chile.   (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)

(Newser) – The magnitude 8.8 earthquake that hit Chile may have actually shifted the Earth's axis, shortening the length of a day, a NASA scientist says. Moving hundreds of kilometers of rock changes the earth's distribution of mass, and, in turn, changes the planet's rate of rotation. In this case, the axis likely shifted by about 3 inches, shortening the day by about 1.26 microseconds.

This is not the first, or only, time an earthquake has had such an impact, BusinessWeek notes. The magnitude 9.1 earthquake that generated the 2004 tsunami shortened the day by 6.8 microseconds. Changes near the epicenter of a quake are more perceptible: The island of Santa Maria, off the Chilean coast, may have been pushed upward by about 2 meters, scientists say.

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Comments
Showing 3 of 19 comments
ilguy
Mar 3, 2010 12:07 AM CST
I could never get everything done before in a day. Now, with 1.26 microseconds less every day, how will I ever manage?
billbobaggins
Mar 2, 2010 8:56 PM CST
Well, there's 1.26 microseconds I lost and can never get back. Must be a slow news day.
Cat-Lover
Mar 2, 2010 8:39 PM CST
I hope it doesn't push me into an undesireable zip code that could affect my credit worthiness or car insurance premiums (as determined by such zip codes).