Japan’s earthquake shifted balance of the planet
Last week’s devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan has actually moved the island closer to the United States and shifted the planet’s axis.
The world’s fifth-largest, 8.9 magnitude quake was caused when the Pacific tectonic plate dove under the North American plate, which shifted Eastern Japan towards North America by about 13 feet (see NASA’s before and after photos). The quake also shifted the earth’s axis by 6.5 inches, shortened the day by 1.6 microseconds, and sank Japan downward by about two feet.
Why did the quake shorten the day? The earth’s mass shifted towards the center, spurring the planet to spin a bit faster. Last year’s massive 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile also shortened the day, but by an even smaller fraction of a second. The 2004 Sumatra quake knocked a whopping 6.8 micro-seconds off the day.