In March, the world closed at home. Industry and services were reduced to a minimum and tourism stopped almost completely, in what was the quietest period in modern history. A group of scientists has now investigated the impact of confinement on vibrations on Earth caused by human activity – and concluded that these have been reduced by 50%. The decline was, of course, more pronounced in highly populated areas.
It was this silence that allowed researchers to hear signs of previously hidden earthquakes and that may help to distinguish between human and natural seismic noise in a way that was not possible before. This can be crucial to warn about future seismic events in advance.
Seismic noise is caused by vibrations within the Earth, which travel like waves and which can be triggered by natural causes such as earthquakes and volcanoes, but also by daily human activity, namely through travel and industry.
duration and inactivity of this period represent a reduction of
longest and most coherent global seismic noise in history,
highlighting how human activities affect the Earth, ”reads the
And some researchers have already named this decrease in noise
and man-made pollution: for months, then we live in the
Altogether, data from 268 seismic stations in 117 countries were analyzed and 185 stations recorded significant noise reductions between March and May, compared to values prior to confinement. The biggest drops in vibrations have been seen in highly populated areas, such as Singapore and New York, but have also been felt in remote areas like Germany's Black Forest.
“The confinement caused by the coronavirus pandemic may have given us a glimpse of how human and natural noise interacts with the Earth”, says Stephen Hicks, co-author of the study.
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