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As Above, So Below—Virus Lockdown Has Dramatically Slowed Earth’s Seismic Activity



Society has increasingly grown still over the past few months. We’ve already seen how a drop in human activity has allowed skies and waterways to clear. The Earth’s surface is thriving more than ever. Now, recent research is showing us a change in how the Earth’s layers move. As we slow down above, so does Earth below. Less movement and activity from cars, trains, and buses have proven to show a reduction, seismic noise, the hum of vibrations in the planet’s crust.


This new information provides researchers with the opportunity to spot smaller earthquakes, volcanic activity, and other seismic events. According to Thomas Lecocq, a seismologist at the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Brussels, this kind of noise reduction is typically reserved for a brief moment around Christmas. Now that humans have slowed down, we can fully listen to all the Earth has to say.

Seismic Graph

Royal Observatory of Belgium via Nature

Our actions have an effect on our personal future as well as the ways in which the Earth moves. While tectonic plates move on their own, our modern way of living also causes a stir on the way Earth’s crust navigates. Our relationship with movement can influence the planet to move faster or slower. This is food for thought when we consider the abundance of natural disasters that have occurred in the recent past. While we see glaciers melt and pollution levels rise, it’s not often where we are given the opportunity to fully see the effects we have on Earth’s underground layers.


Listening to Earth’s crust may not be on our daily to-do list, but the subtleties can teach us more than we might have expected. For example, noise pollution has a drastic effect on wildlife. Whether it be a firework display, bass sounds from a party, or daily commute honking, silence is often reserved for specific moments. From the atmosphere to the core, we are poised with an opportunity to learn so much from the stillness above, around, and below us.


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