Japan Quake: Effects and Side Effects

The quake, which was centered under the sea, did considerable damage to undersea communications cables. Originally the damage was thought to be minimal but it is apparently rather significant. At least five major cables have been damaged. Details here. Meanwhile, the US military has blocked several websites that are eating up bandwidth that is needed to facilitate Japan recovery efforts. These blockages affect users accessing the Internet from military facilities. “The sites — including YouTube, ESPN, Amazon, eBay and MTV — were chosen not because of the content but because their popularity among users of military computers account for significant bandwidth, according to Strategic Command spokesman Rodney Ellison.” Details here.

Right about now is when we hear the obligatory news report that the earthquake “may have shifted Earth’s axis” (or whatever). Sneezing shifts Earth’s axis. But obviously big energy events can do so in a way that is measurable. The earth is now spinning a little bit faster because of the 9.0 quake.

Using a United States Geological Survey estimate for how the fault responsible for the earthquake slipped, research scientist Richard Gross of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., applied a complex model to perform a preliminary theoretical calculation of how the Japan earthquake-the fifth largest since 1900-affected Earth’s rotation. His calculations indicate that by changing the distribution of Earth’s mass, the Japanese earthquake should have caused Earth to rotate a bit faster, shortening the length of the day by about 1.8 microseconds (a microsecond is one millionth of a second).

The calculations also show the Japan quake should have shifted the position of Earth’s figure axis (the axis about which Earth’s mass is balanced) by about 17 centimeters (6.5 inches), towards 133 degrees east longitude. Earth’s figure axis should not be confused with its north-south axis; they are offset by about 10 meters (about 33 feet). This shift in Earth’s figure axis will cause Earth to wobble a bit differently as it rotates, but it will not cause a shift of Earth’s axis in space-only external forces such as the gravitational attraction of the sun, moon and planets can do that.

Both calculations will likely change as data on the quake are further refined.


For more information and essays about the Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Reactor problems in Japan CLICK HERE.


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