Shop Windows to the Universe

Earth Science Rocks! Select one of our four cool NESTA t-shirts from our online store, and express your love of Earth and space science!

Massive Earthquake Shakes Chile
News story originally written on February 27, 2010

Early Saturday morning, February 27, 2010, a very strong earthquake shook Chile and western South America. The earthquake, a magnitude 8.8, struck about 100 km (60 mi) off the coast of Maule, Chile (see map at left). The depth of the earthquake was 35 km (21.7 mi). People living in the area have been feeling the shaking of numerous strong aftershocks too.

The magnitude of this earthquake was strong enough to reduce buildings and bridges to rubble and disrupt power. The earthquake epicenter was not far from the large cities of Santiago and Conception, Chile. Approximately 1.5 million people are now homeless in the earthquake region of coastal Chile, according to the director of Chilean emergency management office.

The earthquake happened as Earth's tectonic plates moved along the boundary between the Nazca and South American tectonic plates. These two plates are moving towards each other over time. Each year, they move about 8 cm (3.2 in) closer. Where does the extra rock go? The Nazca plate is sliding below the South American plate, a process called subduction.

This is not the first earthquake to rock coastal Chile. Because it is so close to the boundary between two tectonic plates, the area has a long history of earthquakes. Thirteen large earthquakes, magnitude 7.0 or higher, have shaken the area since 1973. Because it is so prone to earthquakes, there are strict building codes in this area, which means that buildings are designed to be sturdy. Thus, even though this earthquake was much stronger than the earthquake that struck Haiti a month ago, the total destruction is likely to be much less.

The earthquake created tsunami waves in the Pacific Ocean of up to 2.35 meters (7.7 ft), which flooded islands and threw boats into houses along the coast at Talcahuano, Chile. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a warning that countries in and around the Pacific Ocean, even those thousands of miles away in the western Pacific, should prepare for the possibility that tsunami waves would soon reach their coasts. The Center monitors sea level in the Pacific to track the location of tsunami waves as they move across he ocean. Sirens blasted in the early morning on the Hawaiian Islands, warning people to go to higher ground. Thankfully, the tsunami was quite small when it hit most areas - about 1.2 meters (4 ft) high in Japan and about 2 meters (6.5 feet) high on Tonga and New Zealand.

Last modified March 1, 2010 by Lisa Gardiner.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Our online store includes fun classroom activities for you and your students. Issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist are also full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science!

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Cool It! Game

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

What Is an Earthquake?

The expression "on solid ground" is often used to describe something as stable. But sometimes the solid ground underfoot is not stable. It moves as Earthís tectonic plates move. Sometimes it moves gradually....more

Plate Tectonics

Many forces cause the surface of the Earth to change over time. However, the largest force that changes our planetís surface is the movement of Earth's outer layer through the process of plate tectonics....more

How Do Plates Move?

Earthís center, or core, is very hot, about 9000 degrees F. This heat causes molten rock deep within the mantle layer to move. Warm material rises, cools, and eventually sinks down. As the cool material...more

Subduction

When two sections of the Earth's lithosphere collide one slab of lithosphere can be forced back down into the deeper regions of the Earth, as shown in this diagram. This process is called subduction....more

Haiti Earthquake January 2010

A major earthquake causing widespread devestation and extensive loss of life struck the nation of Haiti on January 12, 2010. The earthquake had a magnitude of 7.0. Haiti is on the island of Hispaniola...more

Several tornadoes hit Arkansas, 24 killed

Several severe thunderstorms hit the U.S. over the weekend, wreaking havoc on the Midwestern and Southern states. Fourteen tornadoes hit Arkansas on Saturday, March 1, 1997, killing 24 people and injuring...more

Severe thunderstorms cause flooding, deaths

Several severe thunderstorms hit the U.S. over the weekend, wreaking havoc on the Midwestern and Southern states. Storms on Saturday, March 1, have killed at least 21 in Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee,...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF