Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Earth Is Shaking a Lot Less Now That Everyone Is Staying Home

Climate
Earth Is Shaking a Lot Less Now That Everyone Is Staying Home
General view of the empty Alma bridge, in front of the Eiffel tower, while the city imposes emergency measures to combat the Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak, on March 17, 2020 in Paris, France. Edward Berthelot / Getty Images

Half the world is on lockdown. So, the constant hum of cars, trucks, trains and heavy machinery has stopped, drastically reducing the intensity of the vibrations rippling through the Earth's crust. Seismologists, who use highly sensitive equipment, have noticed a difference in the hum caused by human activity, according to Fast Company.


In Belgium, scientists report at least a 30 percent reduction in that amount of ambient human noise since lockdown began there, according to Popular Mechanics. Scientists say this may be beneficial to seismologists, as it will allow them to detect minor earthquakes and to improve their tracking of volcanic activity and other seismic events, as Nature reported.

Thomas Lecocq, a geologist and seismologist at the Royal Observatory in Belgium, first pointed out the phenomenon, according to CNN. He noticed the 30 to 50 percent reduction since the country started its social distancing measures in mid-March and businesses and industries shut down. Lecocq said the vibrations he has seen are on par with what it is like on Christmas Day in Belgium.

While most seismologist instruments are placed outside cities to avoid vibrations caused by urban centers, the one in Brussels was built more than 100 years ago and the city has expanded around it since then. That proximity to the city accounts for the dramatic dip in seismic activity, as CNN reported.

The seismic effect of one car, one train, or one jackhammer is miniscule, together they crescendo in a significant din background noise that reduces seismologists ability to detect other signals at the same frequency, according to Nature.

The dips from human activity have been noticed in other cities around the world, including in London and Los Angeles, as Fortune reported. In a tweet, a British seismologist, shared data from a sensor near a motorway, showing large dips in daytime activity.

The same was seen in an image shared on Twitter by a CalTech geophysics PhD student who shared the noise reductions from a Los Angeles sensor. "[T]he drop is seriously wild," she wrote.

If lockdowns continue in the coming months, detectors in urban centers around the world might improve on their usual ability to detect the locations of earthquake aftershocks, Andy Frassetto, a seismologist at the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology in Washington DC, says to Nature. "You'll get a signal with less noise on top, allowing you to squeeze a little more information out of those events."

The reduction in seismic activity, like reduction in air pollution, also show that people are adhering to social distancing guidelines from governments around the world.

"From the seismological point of view, we can motivate people to say, 'OK look, people. You feel like you're alone at home, but we can tell you that everyone is home. Everyone is doing the same. Everyone is respecting the rules,'" Lecocq said to CNN.

On the other hand, if a reduction in vibrations around the Earth's crust isn't detected, it can tell seismologists where people are flouting lockdown orders, said Raphael De Plaen, a postdoctoral researcher at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México to CNN, which may be helpful in future pandemics.

"That could be used in the future by decision makers to figure out, 'OK, we're not doing things right. We need to work on that and make sure that people respect that because this is in the interest of everyone.'"

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists' "Doomsday Clock" — an estimate of how close humanity is to the apocalypse — remains at 100 seconds to zero for 2021. Eva Hambach / AFP / Getty Images

By Brett Wilkins

One hundred seconds to midnight. That's how close humanity is to the apocalypse, and it's as close as the world has ever been, according to Wednesday's annual announcement from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a group that has been running its "Doomsday Clock" since the early years of the nuclear age in 1947.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The 13th North Atlantic right whale calf with their mother off Wassaw Island, Georgia on Jan. 19, 2010. @GeorgiaWild, under NOAA permit #20556

North Atlantic right whales are in serious trouble, but there is hope. A total of 14 new calves of the extremely endangered species have been spotted this winter between Florida and North Carolina.

Read More Show Less

Trending

There are new lifestyle "medicines" that are free that doctors could be prescribing for all their patients. Marko Geber / Getty Images

By Yoram Vodovotz and Michael Parkinson

The majority of Americans are stressed, sleep-deprived and overweight and suffer from largely preventable lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. Being overweight or obese contributes to the 50% of adults who suffer high blood pressure, 10% with diabetes and additional 35% with pre-diabetes. And the costs are unaffordable and growing. About 90% of the nearly $4 trillion Americans spend annually for health care in the U.S. is for chronic diseases and mental health conditions. But there are new lifestyle "medicines" that are free that doctors could be prescribing for all their patients.

Read More Show Less
Candles spell out, "Fight for 1 point 5" in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany on Dec. 11, 2020, in reference to 1.5°C of Earth's warming. The event was organized by the Fridays for Future climate movement. Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Taking an unconventional approach to conduct the largest-ever poll on climate change, the United Nations' Development Program and the University of Oxford surveyed 1.2 million people across 50 countries from October to December of 2020 through ads distributed in mobile gaming apps.

Read More Show Less
A monarch butterfly is perched next to an adult caterpillar on a milkweed plant, the only plant the monarch will lay eggs on and the caterpillar will eat. Cathy Keifer / Getty Images

By Tara Lohan

Fall used to be the time when millions of monarch butterflies in North America would journey upwards of 2,000 miles to warmer winter habitat.

Read More Show Less