clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

COVID-19 has made the Earth less shaky, researchers say

Seismic noise has dropped due to the coronavirus and social distancing

Chip Simpson looks up the street from behind what was a nearly 6-foot tall block wall that was destroyed during a 5.7 magnitude quake on Wednesday, March 18, 2020.
Chip Simpson looks up the street from behind what was a nearly 6-foot tall block wall that was destroyed during a 5.7 magnitude quake in Northern Utah on Wednesday, March 18, 2020.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Earth is vibrating and shaking less than it used to because of COVID-19, multiple researchers say.

What’s going on:

  • Seismologists have discovered that there is less seismic noise around the world, which means there are less vibrations from trains, cars and buses throughout the world because so many people are staying home and social distancing, CNN reports.
  • The lack of noise means “Earth’s upper crust is moving just a little less,” according to CNN.
  • Thomas Lecocq, a geologist and seismologist at the Royal Observatory in Belgium, was one of the first to discover the change in sound in Belgium, where vibrations have decreased about one-third because of new social distancing and quarantine restrictions, according to CBS News.
  • Lecocq and other researchers told CNN they’ve picked up on smaller earthquakes and shakes because there’s less general seismic noise from transportation.
  • Paula Koelemeijer posted a graphic on Twitter that showed West London’s decreased in noise levels, too.

Stephen Hicks used the same graphic to show show the background seismic noise has dropped, too.

Why it matters:

  • The TeCake said researchers believe “this could permit detectors to identify smaller sized quakes as well as enhance initiatives to track volcanic task as well as various other seismic events.”
  • The lack of noise could help scientists discover waves and patterns in seismic activity, too, that they wouldn’t normally see, according to The TeCake.

That said

  • Don’t mistake this for meaning there won’t be any earthquakes. Larger earthquakes have rattled California, Utah and Idaho within the last month.