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Co-Seismic Mass Displacement and its Effect on Earth's Rotation and GravityMantle processes often involve large-scale mass transport, ranging from mantle convection, tectonic motions, glacial isostatic adjustment, to tides, atmospheric and oceanic loadings, volcanism and seismicity. On very short time scale of less than an hour, co-seismic event, apart from the "shaking" that is the earthquake, leaves behind permanent (step-function-like) displacements in the crust and mantle. This redistribution of mass changes the Earth's inertia tensor (and hence Earth's rotation in both length-of-day and polar motion), and the gravity field. The question is whether these effects are large enough to be of any significance. In this paper we report updated calculation results based on Chao & Gross. The calculation uses the normal mode summation scheme, applied to over twenty thousand major earthquakes that occurred during 1976-2002, according to source mechanism solutions given by the Harvard Centroid Moment Tensor catalog. Compared to the truly large ones earlier in the century, the earthquakes we study are individually all too small to have left any discernible signature in geodetic records of Earth rotation or global gravity field. However, their collective effects continue to exhibit an extremely strong statistical tendencies, conspiring to decrease J2 and J22 while shortening LOD, resulting in a rounder and more compact Earth. Strong tendency is also seen in the earthquakes trying to "nudge" the Earth rotation pole towards approx. 140 deg.E, roughly opposite to the observed polar drift direction. Currently, the Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE) is measuring the time-variable gravity to high degree and order with unprecedented accuracy. Our results show that great earthquakes such as the 1960 Chilean or 1964 Alaskan events cause gravitational field changes that are large enough to be detected by GRACE.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Chao, B. F.
(NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD, United States)
Gross, R. S.
(Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Date Acquired
August 22, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2004
Subject Category
Meeting Information
3rd International Conference on Continental Earthquakes(Beijing)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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