A drastic reduction in global human activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on the Earth’s vibrations, seismologists have found.
Researchers from the British Geological Survey (BGS) said that their seismometers are twitching less amid the current lockdowns across the world, prompting a decrease in ground movements in the Earth’s upper crust.
Brian Baptie, a seismologist at BGS in Edinburgh, explained that these sensors measure “ground vibrations and the vibrations we want to record are from earthquakes”.
According to him, the seismometers are “so sensitive they pick up other sources too, including human activity,” including road traffic, as well people walking past and nearby factories, which is known as “cultural noise”.
“All these things generate vibrations and those propagate through the Earth”, Baptie said, adding that BGS sensors detected fewer Earth vibrations last week as the COVID-19 lockdown continued.
“We had a look at the data from some of our seismic stations around the UK and we do see an effect. […] In theory, this reduction in noise means we should be able to detect more earthquakes in the UK, in Europe, and all around the world", he pointed out.
He was echoed by the Royal Observatory of Belgium which tweeted last month that the Earth’s ground movements “at frequencies 1-20 Hz, mainly due to human activity (cars, trains, industries,) are much lower since the implementation of the containment measures by the government”.
Our staff is teleworking. The earth continues shaking. Ground movements at frequencies 1-20 Hz, mainly due to human activity (cars, trains, industries,...) are much lower since the implementation of the containment measures by the government. #StayHome @ibzbe @CrisiscenterBE pic.twitter.com/pGgQAyLuUP— Seismologie.be (@Seismologie_be) March 20, 2020
At least 2.8 billion people around the world remain in lockdown after the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned late last month that the coronavirus pandemic is gathering strength. According to the WHO’s latest estimates, there are 1,210, 956 confirmed COVID-19 cases globally, with 67, 594 deaths.