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article imageThe strange case of Mexico’s ‘artificial earthquake’

By Tim Sandle     Jun 19, 2018 in Science
When Mexico celebrated its World Cup victory over Germany, the enthusiasm was so massive that it registered on seismographic equipment in Mexico.
Supporters in Mexico City watching Germany game caused two ‘artificial’ quakes during their team’s surprise win. In the biggest shock in the World Cup, Mexico stunned Germany by, as soccer pundits have noted, exposing their full-backs and harassing Germany’s top player Toni Kroos out the game. These tactics led to a surprise 1-0 win, with the goal coming in the thirty-fifth minute.
So many of the Mexican population were excited, expressing their jubilation by jumping on Sunday, that it shook the ground sufficiently hard to activate earthquake detectors, as reported by the Institute of Geological and Atmospheric Investigations.
The earthquake sensors registered tremors at two sites in Mexico City, coming seven seconds after the goal was scored by the Mexican squad’s Hirving Lozano. Although no further earthquakes were reported, after the final whistle blew millions of households around the country erupted in joy, as the New York Times reports, with people streaming out into the streets to celebrate.
This peculiar human-led event has been assessed by Northwestern University seismologist Suzan van der Lee, who has been in contact with Digital Journal. The event, according to Professor van der Lee, is a very rare occurrence. Van der Lee is a professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.
Suzan van der Lee conducts research into field and permanent-network seismic data to unravel the dynamics of solid Earth. As a part of this work, she records seismic waves and translates the recordings into images of the Earth’s interior structures.
The interesting observation from the earth tremor detection, according to Professor van der Lee, is: “Most of the hype looks like it is based on a misunderstanding that seismic signals can only be caused by earthquakes.”
And although the Mexican soccer dancing has hit news headlines, this type of event has happened before, as Professor van der Lee explains: “Though these occurrences are not common, it’s definitely not the first time this sort of mass joy was recorded by a seismometer.”
Which mean it could happen again, according to Professor van der Lee: “It can happen for special events that are so big that mostly everyone — at least locally — unites in celebration, such as during this World Cup game or when an underdog wins the Super Bowl.”
“The seismic signal is likely not just caused by fans jumping but also by fans dancing around for a while.”
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