Sunday, March 13, 2011

The impact of the Great Earthquake of 2011

This is fascinating, and not a little terrifying:

The powerful earthquake that unleashed a devastating tsunami Friday appears to have moved the main island of Japan by 8 feet (2.4 meters) and shifted the Earth on its axis.

"At this point, we know that one GPS station moved (8 feet), and we have seen a map from GSI (Geospatial Information Authority) in Japan showing the pattern of shift over a large area is consistent with about that much shift of the land mass," said Kenneth Hudnut, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

Reports from the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Italy estimated the 8.9-magnitude quake shifted the planet on its axis by nearly 4 inches (10 centimeters).

We are reminded that we inhabit this planet but do not own it, and that no matter how hard we try to control or even dominate nature, often at our peril (e.g., climate change resulting from global warming), we are easily overwhelmed. If nothing else, we should be humbled -- and humbled into a greater sense of responsibility -- by what has happened.

Images released by NASA show Japan's northeast coast before, left, and after flooding from the quake-induced tsunami.

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