COVID-19 ISO Insights

Human Inactivity During COVID-19 Helps Seismologists

August 17, 2020

By: Christopher Sirota, CPCU

The COVID-19 crisis hushed noise from human activity so much during the height of shutdowns and social distancing that seismologists believed that they could hear the rumblings of Mother Earth with more effectiveness, according to an article in Science Daily.

Science Daily explains that urban areas have been significant sources of vibrations that can impede the ability of seismologists to distinguish natural seismic activity from those caused by humans. The researchers reportedly attribute the reduction in noise to "the global effect of social distancing measures, closure of services and industry, and drops in tourism and travel […]." The article further notes that "[this occurrence] is the longest and most pronounced quiet period of seismic noise in recorded history."

Researchers reportedly analyzed data produced by 268 seismic stations in 117 countries, from March to May 2020. Per the article, not only did the researchers observe the largest decrease in human seismic noise from large cities that have been under lockdown from the COVID-19 crisis, such as New York City and Singapore, they also noticed drops in vibrations from non-urban areas, including the Black Forest in Germany and Rundu in Namibia. The article further explains that, during this lull, researchers were able to detect "previously concealed earthquake signals."

The researchers are reportedly hopeful that the insight gained during this quieter period may help them more effectively identify natural vibration signals in the future, an ability which could, in turn, help improve the identification of warning signals for impending natural disasters such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.