Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have used computer models to predict that the cataclysmic Chilean earthquake may have shifted the Earth’s axis by three inches, which will ultimately result in shorter days.
Days are estimated to have been shortened by 1.26 microseconds, and more visible changes include islands changing their position. One of them, Santa María, may have risen two meters as a result of the quake. “It’s what we call the ice-skater effect,” David Kerridge, head of Earth hazards and systems at the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh, provided an analogy, “As the ice skater puts when she’s going around in a circle, and she pulls her arms in, she gets faster and faster. It’s the same idea with the Earth going around if you change the distribution of mass, the rotation rate changes.”
It’s not the first time something like this has happened, but an 8.8 rating on the Richter scale is one of the most serious to date.
[BusinessWeek via Gizmodo]