Two weeks ago, Chile’s magnitude-8.8 earthquake was so powerful that scientists concluded it actually shortened the length of a day on Earth by 1.26 milliseconds. On Sunday, we’ll lose another hour as daylight-saving time begins.
Of course, it’s really just sleep we’re losing when clocks “spring forward” one hour beginning at 2 a.m. Sunday. For the next eight months, we’ll have that extra hour of daylight in the evenings — until the nation returns to Standard Time on Nov. 7.
The daylight-saving switch was moved up to the second Sunday in March three years ago, when the Energy Policy Act of 2005 was enacted. The switch was made to save more energy, although there is conflicting data about that. A 2007 study by the California Energy Commission found no significant change in the amount of energy use because of the additional daylight.
While you’re changing your clocks this weekend, though, it’s a good idea to check your smoke- and carbon-monoxide detector batteries, as well as other infrequent but recommended tasks, such as resetting your thermostat.
The earthquake that struck Chile on Feb. 27 packed such a punch that NASA concluded it likely shifted an Earth axis and shortened the length of a day.
According to new computer-model calculations by geophysicist Richard Gross of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada, the quake caused the Earth’s rotation to accelerate and permanently shortened an Earth day by 1.26 millionths of a second. Gross also estimated that the temblor shifted Earth’s figure axis by about 3 inches. The figure axis is one around which Earth’s mass is balanced and it is that shift that may have shortened the day.
The quake, which killed more than 400 people, was the fifth strongest ever recorded, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The quake triggered a tsunami tide that was observed as far away as Santa Barbara.