Earth Observatory Blog

Submitted on 11 Mar 2017 by:

The devastating 2011 Tohoku earthquake in northeastern Japan was a record-breaker on many levels. The magnitude-9.0 quake was Japan’s largest recorded and the world’s fourth biggest earthquake since 1900. Most terribly, it unleashed a 39-metre high tsunami, killing almost 16,000 people and causing a nuclear meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

The earthquake had effects on a global scale. Seismic waves caused icebergs to break off in Antarctica, water in Norwegian fjords to splash back and forth, and wreckage from the tsunami washed up along the North American coastline. Another global consequence? The quake shortened Earth’s day by 1.8 microseconds (µs) and shifted its figure axis by 17 centimetres (cm). 

Just to clear things up, our planet...