The earthquake in Chile was so strong that it changed the tilt of the Earth's axis, but it did NOT produce the huge waves (tsunamis) that scientists were worried about. Why not?
Large tsunamis were reported along Chile's coastline, but they did not cross the Pacific and inundate the West Coast of the US. In contrast to this a 9.5 earthquake of 1960 created a tsunami that claimed swept across Japan, Hawaii and the Philippines, killing 200 people.
Oceanographer Tim Henstock thinks it may be because this earthquake ruptured a relatively small segment of underwater fault, and the tsunami it produced was highly focused, meaning it was severe near the epicenter but quickly lost energy (and height) when it moved in other directions. In New Scientist, Kate Ravilious quotes oceanographer Simon Haslett as saying, "It was quite a directed tsunami, rather than a 'stone in a pool' type propagation."
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