Is the permanent movement resulting from the Chilean earthquake the same movement that occurs with continental drift?

What I mean is– so if the earthquake moved whole cities up to 11 inches in one direction, is this how whole continents move with plate tectonics, or is continental drift more of a gradual mechanism and the movement from the earthquake was something different?



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    Continental drift is a result of the migration of lithographic plates, which are a solid, rigid layer that floats upon the more fluidic asthenophere.  The theory of tectonic plates became widely accepted after experiments in the 1960’s confirmed magnetic anomalies on the ocean floor.  The rate of motion of tectonic plates is described as being somewhere between the speed at which fingernails grow and the speed at which hair grows.  The Plate Boundary refers to the juncture where two distinct plates meet, and these collisions are the cause of geological features such as mountains, volcanoes, and earthquakes.  Movements of cities are more a result of disturbances along a faultline causing layers of earth closer to the surface to shift.

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    Based on a map of all detected shifts (see link in citations), the entire South American continent seems to have had a shift, which was stronger the closer the spot was to the earthquake location. While it is more likely that only the upper layers rather than an entire plate moved 3.04 m under Concepcion, I think it would have to be a plate-wide phenomenon for the shifts all the way across the continent. Don’t forget, the earthquake itself is the result of tectonic shift (which is the current, updated version of the older continental drift theory) as the South American plate pushes the Nazca plate underneath itself. For all I know, maybe it was the sudden plate shift that resulted in the earthquake. I’m not an expert, of course, so let’s wait until geologists come up with a full official report on this.


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    I think that the movement of Conception, Chile should not be attributed to continental drift per se, but to the unbuckling of the locked fault.  This is my theory, which may or may not be true . . . As the Nazca plate moves beneath the South American plate and continental drift cause the South American plate to inch west, the western edge of the continent actually buckles up.  When the fault unlocks (the earthquake) the edge of the continent is released and moves to the west, essentially flattening the buckled up part.

    If this is the way it happens, logically one would expect that Conception also dropped in altitude.  I wonder if this happened . . . 

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      Thanks for the answer otiskatt. I think this makes a lot of sense. I did some searching and couldn’t figure out if Conception dropped in altitude or not. Let me know if you discover anything! Thanks again!

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