Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Global Positioning Disaster

On Friday March 11, 2011 much of Japan experienced an earthquake of magnitude 8.9. The earthquake was followed by a tsunami that hit the eastern half of Japan, causing wave heights to rise more than twelve feet. The aftermath of the event has left much of the country flooded and thousands missing or dead. In addition to the tragedy that is occurring in Japan, the earthquake had geographical impacts.

Japan’s eastern coast is reported to have moved eight feet and the earth’s axis has shifted four inches. The shift has caused a 1.6 micro-second speed up of the earth’s rotation. This is a minimal change in time but other recent events such as the Chilean and Sumatra earthquakes have contributed changes as well. The largest change has come from Friday’s earthquake and now geologists face the problems we will see with our global positioning systems.

According to MSNBC, anything that is linked to a GPS device will need to be changed. Driving directions and property records have all been shifted with the change in axis. Nautical charts on ships will need to be recalculated as well as water depths which have changed up to three feet. The world was able to learn about and react to the disaster in Japan in amazing time but our reliance on technology will affect many people as we sort through the global shifts that have resulted from the quake.

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