We find ourselves at an unprecedented point in history: the majority of humanity, nearly 4 billion souls, are now under lockdown, either totally confined to their homes or ordered to leave only for vital business.1
And it turns out that people are moving around so much less that it’s seismologically notable. Scientific American reports:
Just as natural events such as earthquakes cause Earth’s crust to move, so do vibrations caused by moving vehicles and industrial machinery. And although the effects from individual sources might be small, together they produce background noise, which reduces seismologists’ ability to detect other signals occurring at the same frequency.
Researchers who study Earth’s movement are reporting a drop in seismic noise—the hum of vibrations in the planet’s crust—that could be the result of transport networks and other human activities being shut down. They say this could allow detectors to spot smaller earthquakes and boost efforts to monitor volcanic activity and other seismic events.
A noise reduction of this magnitude is usually only experienced briefly around Christmas, says Thomas Lecocq, a seismologist the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Brussels, where the drop has been observed.
Sounds like some successful social distancing! You can check out the full article here.