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Seismic shift? Vibrations produced by people fall during COVID-19

Specifically, researchers based at Imperial College in London have demonstrated that the decline in human activity during coronavirus lockdown has resulted in human-linked vibrations across the planet falling by around 50 percent between March and May 2020. Thus period has also provided researchers with a unique period of time within which they can measure the vibrational noise of the planet, filtered out from human-centric activities.

This is largely the consequence of the closure of many services and manufacturing coupled with a steep decline in tourism and travel. There has also been a marked reduction in vibrational levels in urban areas compared with rural areas. The findings are based on data collected and analysed from 268 seismic stations situation within 117 countries.

To mark the lowering of human activity and the impact upon the planet, and drawing upon the name for the current era – ‘anthropogenic’ (meaning human-caused), the scientists have dubbed the fall in levels of noise and pollution the ‘anthropause’, or the ‘global quiet’.

The research has been published in the journal Science, with the paper called “Global quieting of high-frequency seismic noise due to COVID-19 pandemic lockdown measures.”

A further consequence of the decline has been detected by scientists using the equipment typically used to monitor for earthquakes. Here seismologists have reported that a reduction in human noise has made things far easier to detect smaller and more distant quakes within the earth. This includes detection by instruments located hundreds of meters below the ground.

Such data reflects the extent that human activities affect the Earth, and how the period of respite has enabled scientists to assess more clearly the differentiation between human and natural noise, movement and vibration.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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