Since we’ve all been stuck at home and many countries are locked down at the moment it seems the world itself is gaining some positive effects. This virus has been devastating and still continues to take lives but that doesn’t mean that our planet isn’t benefiting in some ways.
According to CNN, seismologists are even noticing differences as our planet is not vibrating anywhere near as much. This is happening because while we’re at home, we’re not driving our cars or doing things we would be doing otherwise. When it comes to ambient seismic noise things are much quieter than usual.
Actually, Thomas Lecocq from the Royal Observatory in Belgium told CNN that in Brussels they’re seeing an almost 50 percent reduction in this kind of activity or ‘shaking.’ This meaning the noise level overall when it comes to seismic activity is ‘on par with what seismologists would see on Christmas Day.’
This all makes a lot of sense because tons of people are sitting at home because of this pandemic. Here in the US while a few states have begun lifting some restrictions in certain areas, many people are still unable to even work. COVID-19 has given mother Earth a break in some pretty unexpected ways and perhaps we could count this as one of them.
CBS News wrote as follows on the topic earlier this month when this reduction was noticed:
Researchers who study the Earth’s movement said the mandatory shutdown of transportation systems, businesses, and other human activities has correlated with the planet shaking noticeably less than usual. A drop in seismic noise — the vibrations in the planet’s crust — is giving scientists the rare chance to monitor small earthquakes, volcanic activity, and other subtle tremors that are usually drowned out by the everyday movement of humans.
The quieter vibrations were observed by Thomas Lecocq, a seismologist at the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Brussels, and published this week in an article in the journal Nature. According to Lecocq, such a dramatic decrease in noise can typically only be experienced briefly around Christmas.
Lecocq observed that in Belgium, vibrations caused by human activity have decreased by approximately one-third since COVID-19 isolation measures were introduced by the government. The reduction in noise directly correlates with the closing of schools, restaurants, and other public spaces in the country on March 14 and the ban of all non-essential travel on March 18.
While individual human activity such as vehicle traffic or construction sites only cause small movements in the Earth’s crust, together they produce a sizable amount of “background noise” that hinder scientists’ ability to detect natural events at the same frequency.
Since quarantine measures were introduced, the surface seismometer at the Royal Observatory of Belgium has become more sensitive to quieter seismic activity that it would have previously missed, which could lead to better measurements of small quakes, quarry blasts, storms and crashing ocean waves.
Update for Brussels (Station BE.UCCS): The background level remains low and stable (~-33%). We’ve added more time to the plot so last weeks are more in context. #StayHomeBelgium #StayAtHome #StayHome @CrisiscenterBE pic.twitter.com/bRSPeuxNcG
— Seismologie.be (@Seismologie_be) March 27, 2020
As noted above the less activity noted in this kind of thing means that those working in seismology can detect more things. The smaller events that would go unnoticed when the world was in full swing now will make a big difference when showing up on their equipment. While this might not sound like a lot, I am sure we when going through the motions’ day in and day out put a serious strain on this planet in more ways than we realize.