Scientists say they have seen less movement in Earth's upper crust since the outbreak began

By Jason Duaine Hahn
April 03, 2020 07:26 PM
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Earth
Credit: Tim Peake - ESA/NASA via Getty Images)

The massive impact coronavirus has had on day-to-day life across the world has also had an effect on the planet itself, according to seismologists.

With fewer cars, trucks, trains and other heavy machinery driving over roads and freeways, there has been noticeable drop in vibrations measured in Earth’s crust, according to a report published in the journal Nature this week. The reduction in vibrations — called ambient seismic noise — has been spurred on by much of the population being asked to stay indoors to protect themselves and others from coronavirus.

Thomas Lecocq, a seismologist at the Royal Observatory in Belgium, first noticed a reduction in seismic noise in Brussels. While observing ambient seismic noise in the area, he found the city had reduced levels of noise similar to what it sees on Christmas Day — a holiday that typically sees many people stay indoors to be with family.

This reduction in noise has given scientists a small benefit — seismic detection equipment is now more sensitive, Lecocq explained to Nature. And with an overall quieter planet, seismologists around the globe can expect improved abilities in instruments that detect the locations of earthquakes and aftershocks.

“You’ll get a signal with less noise on top, allowing you to squeeze a little more information out of those events,” Andy Frassetto, a seismologist at the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology in Washington D.C., told the journal.

As noticed by CNN, other scientists have noticed the phenomena as well. In West London, seismologist Paula Koelemeijer posted a graph to social media that showed how seismic noise in the city has changed since “stay at home” orders have gone in place to protect residents from coronavirus.

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“The average noise levels are down reflecting fewer trains, buses and cars,” she wrote.

A student from the California Institute of Technology also posted a graph showing a change in Los Angeles.

“The drop is seriously wild,” she wrote.

There’s no telling how long this “quiet” period may continue since coronavirus is still spreading throughout much of the world.

As of Friday afternoon, at least 7,046 people have died from coronavirus around the United States, according to the New York Times. There have been 272,502 cases in the country so far and more than a million around the planet.

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