The Earth *Really* Moved: Chilean Quake Shifted a City 10 Feet to the West

By Smriti Rao | March 9, 2010 12:06 pm

chile-nThe magnitude 8.8 earthquake that rocked Chile on February 27th didn’t just move the Earth’s axis, thereby shortening the day by 1.26 microseconds, but it also caused entire cities to shift their geographical location.

Studying precise GPS images of the area struck by the quake, a team led by earth scientist Mike Bevis discovered that the Chilean city of Concepción had moved 10 feet to the west. The epicenter of the quake was 71 miles northeast of Concepción, which is Chile’s second largest city.

The effect was widespread: The capital city, Santiago, was wrenched 11 inches west-southwest, while Beunos Aires, located nearly 800 miles from the epicenter, jumped an inch to the west. The earthquake was the fifth largest ever to be recorded by seismographs and even caused far-off areas like Fortaleza, Brazil and the Falkland Islands to change location slightly. The changes were detected by teams from The Ohio State University, the University of Hawaii, the University of Memphis and the California Institute of Technology, as well as agencies across South America [CNN].

The area where the quake hit is of particular interest to geoscientists because it is an active subduction zone, where an oceanic plate is colliding with a continental plate and being pushed into the Earth’s molten mantle below [Wired]. The world’s five largest quakes since 1900, including the largest quake ever recorded (a Chilean quake measuring 9.5), have all occurred in subduction zones. Earth scientist Ben Brooks of the University of Hawaii declared that this “earthquake will arguably become one of the, if not the most important, great earthquakes yet studied….We now have modern, precise instruments to evaluate this event” [CNN].

Related Content:
Discoblog: Chile Quake Shifted Earth’s Axis, Shortened the Length of a Day
80beats: Why Chile’s Massive Earthquake Could Have Been Much Worse
80beats: NASA Jet Studies Haiti’s Fault Lines For Signs of Further Trouble
80beats: Where in the World Will the Next Big Earthquake Strike?
80beats: Satellite Images Show the Extent of Haiti’s Devastation
80beats: Haiti Earthquake May Have Released 250 Years of Seismic Stress
80beats: Science Via Twitter: Post-Earthquake Tweets Can Provide Seismic Data

Image: University of Hawaii

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Technology
  • MartyM

    Wow, talk about moving mountains!!

  • Michelle

    After everyone involved is done with their measurements and investigations, it would be most awesome to see an animated simulation of the event! No? 😀 *hint hint*

  • Nancy

    that’s crazy. first a shorter day now THIS?

  • Uncle Bob

    As my kids might say “Wow! What a ride!” I’m in midwest USA, and we have our own fault, not too far away ( New Madrid fault) I might move if I only knew where.

  • karen massey

    all i can respond to this and say is read…….revelation16:18

  • Albert Bakker

    Wow, that was mindnumbingly boring Karen #5. Reads like a bad trip that Bible stuff. Also Chile really isn’t located around the Euphrates.

  • coryy

    “Also Chile really isn’t located around the Euphrates” …whoa, how big an earthquake would it take to move it THERE???

    Just kidding. Comment 6 made my morning skeptic smile!

  • bryan

    I think Revelation 16:18 is still quite a ways down the road but Matthew 24:7 might speak to this event… you never know. I think the idea is to be watchful and observant, lots of people believe the “bible stuff”.

  • Fred

    The Pacific sea floor is extruding out from beneath the western edges of Americas. It is entertaining to observe the amount of nonsense Geologists write and teach in order to maintain the appearance that all data are consistent with subduction.


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