Japan Earthquake Shortens Days on Earth

March 13, 2011 at 8:32 am | Posted in Science News | Leave a comment

First of all, everyone here at Roqoo Depot is tremendously saddened by the tragic earthquake that has devastated Japan over the last couple of days. Our hearts go out to the Japanese people and anyone who has friends or family affected by this horrific natural disaster. We would urge anyone who is able to make a directed donation to your relief organization of choice or you can donate via SMS by texting the word  “REDCROSS” to the number 90999.

While Roqoo Depot is first and foremost a Star Wars fan site, we also strive to bring our readers the best in real life science and space exploration stories as well. There has been a lot of rumor and scattered news reports about the effect this earthquake has had our planet itself. I have been listening to news reports and doing research on the internet since early yesterday trying to get to the facts.  I will share some of those with you here in this column and while the sources I’ve checked are too numerous to mention all of them, the very best source and explanation I have come across as I dig through the various news sites and blogs available on the web and television comes from one of my favorite web sites of all time, Space.com. If you click the link you will find an excellent article explaining exactly what happened to our fragile planet and how it will effect all of mankind as we continue to spin around in circles together on this little blue space marble we call home.

This map shows the location of the March 11, 2011 earthquake in Japan, as well as the foreshocks (dotted lines), including a 7.2-magnitude event on March 9, and aftershocks (solid lines). The size of each circle represents the magnitude of the associated quake or shock. CREDIT: USGS

It is true that the entire nation of Japan has shifted it’s mass by approximately eight feet. Also true is that the Earth has shifted it’s axis by about ten inches. The result is that the length of an Earth day has now gotten shorter as the shifting mass of the planet has caused the rotation to pick up speed. In much the same way as a figure skater increases their speed of rotation during  a maneuver by drawing their arms in toward their body, so has the planet drawn ever slightly in on itself, increasing it’s rotational spin. The length of the average day has now decreased by 1.8 microseconds. A microsecond is one millionth of a second.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. In fact many factors contribute to minor changes in the speed of the Earth’s rotation all the time. Other seismic events, the jet stream and the changing of the seasons can all have a far more pronounced effect on planetary spin than this earthquake has had. In the last hundred years there have been other, larger earthquakes that have had a much greater effect. It is largely believed that the result of this shift in the Earth’s mass will be imperceptible to anyone inhabiting the planet and it is not expected to have any significant impact on global temperatures or regional climates.

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by Revmacd
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