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Japan Earthquake Shifted Coastline Maximum Of 8 Feet, Scientists Say

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NEW YORK -- The massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake that shook Japan and triggered a powerful tsunami on Friday has had a profound effect on both the surrounding terrain and the planet as a whole.

Dr. Daniel McNamara, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, told The Huffington Post that the disaster left a gigantic rupture in the sea floor, 217-miles long and 50 miles wide. It also shifted Japan's coast by eight feet in some parts, though McNamara was quick to explain much of the coast likely didn't move as far.

McNamara found the way in which the quake actually sank the elevation of the country's terrain to be more troublesome than coastal shifting. "You see cities still underwater; the reason is subsidence," he said. "The land actually dropped, so when the tsunami came in, it's just staying."

The enormous tremor also shifted the Earth's axis. According to CNN, the earthquake moved the planet's axis approximately 4 inches.

While scientists have scrambled to gather concrete data to quantify such a powerful tremor's effect on the Earth, the numbers don't always add up. For example, McNamara pointed out that reports claiming the sea floor's rift measured 93 miles wide are incorrect. As for how much the earth's axis actually shifted, "there are all kinds of different numbers floating around," McNamara said.

Conflicting figures aside, a shift in the Earth's axis wouldn't be noticeable. Last year's 8.8-magnitude earthquake in Chile, which also reportedly moved the planet's axis slightly, only resulted in shortening the day by 1.26 microseconds. (A microsecond is one-millionth of a second.)

As for any claims that the earthquake somehow relates to climate change, McNamara didn't hesitate to dismiss that connection. He explained that while evidence shows melting glaciers can cause small tremors directly underneath as their weight on the Earth's crust reduces, what happened in Japan "is not connected in any way to that process."

In a prior interview with The Huffington Post, McNamara said Japan's 8.9 quake was "not a surprise" due to how active the region is, but maintained that scientists "can't predict earthquakes."

CLICK HERE for live updates on the aftermath of Japan's disaster, and CLICK HERE to find out how to help with relief efforts.

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