Chile Earthquake May Have Shortened Days on Earth

A NASA Scientiest said that the massive 8.8 earthquake that struck Chile may have changed the entire Earth’s rotation and shortened the length of days on our planet. It should have shortened the length of an Earth day by 1.26 milliseconds, according to research scientist Richard Gross at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

“Perhaps more impressive is how much the quake shifted Earth’s axis,” NASA officials said in a Monday update.

The earthquake effect also have moved Earth’s figure axis by about 3 inches (8 cm or 27 milliarcseconds).

The Earth’s figure axis is not the same as its north-south axis, which it spins around once every day at a speed of about 1,000 mph (1,604 kph).

Strong earthquakes have altered Earth’s days and its axis in the past. The 9.1 Sumatran earthquake in 2004, which set off a deadly tsunami, should have shortened Earth’s days by 6.8 microseconds and shifted its axis by about 2.76 inches (7 cm, or 2.32 milliarcseconds).

One Earth day is about 24 hours long. Over the course of a year, the length of a day normally changes gradually by one millisecond. It increases in the winter, when the Earth rotates more slowly, and decreases in the summer, Gross has said in the past.

The Chile earthquake was much smaller than the Sumatran temblor, but its effects on the Earth are larger because of its location. Its epicenter was located in the Earth’s mid-latitudes rather than near the equator like the Sumatran event.

NASA Scientist added, the fault responsible for the 2010 Chile quake also slices through Earth at a steeper angle than the Sumatran quake’s fault.

“This makes the Chile fault more effective in moving Earth’s mass vertically and hence more effective in shifting Earth’s figure axis,” NASA officials said.

The Chile earthquake has killed more than 700 people and caused widespread devastation in the South American country.