Ever question how fragile our lives really are? Do we get that a few tiny shifts, knocking our planet's fine-tuned balancing act out of orbit could be it for life on Earth, or at least-as we know it?
I admit I don't dwell on the things that could end our lives daily. I do take precautions when its possible to keep safer, but that's from man, not mother nature.
Now I'm not writing this to scare the beegeebees out of anyone, it has been all over the news (AOL, too). I am simply restating facts....
I am no geologist by any means, but I do understand tectonic plate shifting and how that can affect the planetary orbit (I minored in Astronomy in college). I'm copying the short version here, the rest is on AOL News.
MELBOURNE (Jan. 9) - Two weeks on, the Earth is still vibrating from the massive undersea earthquake off Indonesia that triggered the tsunami, Australian researchers said on Sunday.
The Australian National University (ANU) said the reverberations were similar in form to the ringing of a bell, though without the sound, and were picked up by gravity monitoring instruments.
"These are not things that are going to throw you off your chair, but they are things that the kinds of instruments that are in place around the world can now routinely measure," said ANU Earth Sciences researcher Herb McQueen.
"It is certainly above the background level of vibrations that the Earth is normally accustomed to experiencing."The magnitude 9.0 earthquake, the strongest for 40 years, struck off the coast of Indonesia's Sumatra island on Dec. 26. The tsunami it generated claimed more than 150,000 lives.
McQueen said the oscillation was fading and at current levels equated to about a millimeter of vertical motion of the Earth.
Immediately after the quake the oscillation was probably in the 20 to 30 cm motion range that is typically generated in the Earth by the movements of the sun and moon.
"This particular earthquake because it was 10 times larger than most of the recent large earthquakes is continuing to reverberate," McQueen said.
"We can still see a steady signal of the Earth vibrating as a result of that earthquake two weeks later. From what it looks like, it appears it will probably continue to oscillate for several more weeks."
U.S. scientists said just after the quake that it may have permanently accelerated the Earth's rotation -- shortening days by a fraction of a second -- and caused the planet to wobble on its axis.
Richard Gross, a geophysicist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, theorized that a shift of mass towards the Earth's center during the quake caused the planet to spin three millionths of a second faster and tilt about 2.5 centimeters on its axis.
The geologic circumstances that set up one of the worst natural disasters in a century were much longer in the making. How long?
Try 300 million years. Maybe twice that long.
Once, scientists believe, all the Earth's continents were combined in a single gigantic land mass they call Pangea. But geological forces caused it to break apart; and ever since then, the pieces, which scientists call plates, have been drifting across the planet at an average rate of a few inches a century. (If one cuts out the continents, it can be seen how they fit together--give or take some chunks of land that have fallen off during these seismic shifts.)
As the plates move, grinding collisions between them trigger earthquakes and even build mountains. The Indian subcontinent, for example, has been moving inexorably northward for millions of years, colliding with Asia like a slow-motion car wreck, the land at the edge of the collision buckling to form the Himalayas. Mount Everest and other mountains in the chain are still growing at a rate of about a half-inch per year.
Geologists say it was a lurching collision between the Indian plate and the Burma plate, which grind together along a 750-mile long, north-south fault in the Indian Ocean, that triggered the recent earthquake off Sumatra, and the resulting tsunami.
The quake is believed to have shifted north Sumatra and smaller nearby islands by as much as 60 feet.
In human time, earthquakes that powerful are rare, but in the vastness of geologic time, they are commonplace.
Really big earthquakes - those like the Sumatra quake that noticeably rearrange the landscape - are so rare that there are few opportunities to study them. Until the Sumatra quake, it had been 40 years since a magnitude 9 temblor occurred - in Alaska. Like fishermen waiting for the big one, geologists can spend their entire careers waiting for the chance to study the huge temblor that never comes.
"A lot of what we see that is catastrophic occurs in the snap of a finger,'' says David Wald, a geophysicist for the U.S. Geological Survey. "And then nothing happens for hundreds of years.''
Cartographers are already underway re-mapping the areas hit by the tsunami and earthquake. Some ports, it is reported, have gone from 1000's of feet in depth to just 60 feet--a major problem for that region whose people depend on the shipping industry.
We have no clue of how wrong things can go when we mess with Mother Earth. Sure we complain about ice, snow, and those dark dreary rainy days.
But next time, I hope we thank her, instead of curse her....