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How the Chile earthquake created miles of new, "uplifted" coastline

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Earlier this year, the 8.8 quake that hit Chile did more than level homes. It raised the ocean floor so much that undersea regions broke the surface of the water. Here are pictures of Chile's incredible new coastline.

Over the weekend, Science magazine published a report from a group of researchers in Chile, who measured the dramatic transformations in the Chilean landscape following the earthquake. The earth rose up so much along the southern coast of Chile that vast new land platforms were "uplifted," creating huge, lacy beaches covered in dying marine life.

According to Science:

[The] new study provides first-hand confirmation that the February earthquake ruptured a very long fault along the coast of Chile, but that its effects on coastal land varied; with a rise of land to a higher elevation in the South and an opposite sinking down of the Earth's surface in the North. The findings will help geologists and seismologists gain a deeper understanding of what triggers large earthquakes. In a Brevium, Marcelo Farías and researchers from Chile, France, and Germany report measurements from 33 sites related to the earthquake, all made within in a month of the rupture. The measurements reveal that uplift or and elevation of land occurred closer to the coast, while sinking occurred farther inward, toward land. This pattern is broadly similar to measurements made following many other great earthquakes, and is consistent with a fault slip that lies along a 500 km section of the Chilean coast that coincides with previous earthquakes in 1835 and 1928.


Read the full scientific paper via Science.


The beach of Lebu showing the uplift of the ground-water level. Uplift in this zone was
about 180 cm, which produced the uplift of a great marine platform. Image © Science/AAAS

The uplift recorded in the south part of the City of Dichato. Image © Science/AAAS


An uplifted marine platform in Punta Lavapié (northernmost tip of the Arauco
Peninsula). This photograph shows several species of dead algae and mollusks that lived
in the intertidal-subtidal zone. Here, the coastline before the earthquake was just at the
foot of the cliff. Image © Science/AAAS


Aerial photograph at the southern Santa María Island. Here, several marine platforms
uplifted more than 1.5 m, leaving some species far from their living zone. Sea lions, seen
here, are now more than 5 m from the sea-level. Image © Science/AAAS


An uplifted marine platform in Caleta Yani (Arauco Peninsula). Here, uplift was about
130 cm, producing the death of almost all the mollusks and algae that live in intertidal-
subtidal zone. Image © Science/AAAS


Other view of the uplifted marine platform in Caleta Yani. White surface corresponds to
the dead lithothamnium alga. Image © Science/AAAS