The Earth Is Vibrating Substantially Less Due to COVID-19 Lockdowns, New Study Says

The lockdowns that have been mandated to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic have had an unexpected and mind-boggling effect: severely lowering the vibration of the Earth caused by human activity. According to a new study, led by the Royal Observatory of Belgium and published in Science, data collected from 268 seismic monitoring stations around the world up to May 2020 confirmed that the planet was vibrating up to 50 percent less than normal due to remarkable drops in high-frequency anthropogenic signals.

The paper added that the difference in seismic activity correlated to countries that had undergone lockdowns. For example, the pattern started in China in late January, after the country sought to clamp down on the spread of the virus in the city of Wuhan. Europe followed soon after, particularly as Italy and Spain were severely hit by the disease. The United States and the rest of the world showed decreased numbers throughout March and April.

The vibrations are caused by activities such as road traffic, public transport, construction, and even sporting events. As a result, the researchers discovered that the difference was most notable in high-density areas such as cities.

A car drives along an empty highway
Getty Images | Jeff J Mitchell

However, that does not mean that rural areas did not display similar patterns. For example, both the Black Forest and a region along the Namibia-Angola border showed similar data.

"This quiet period is likely the longest and largest dampening of human-caused seismic noise since we started monitoring the Earth in detail using vast monitoring networks of seismometers," explained co-author Dr Stephen Hicks, from Imperial's Department of Earth Science and Engineering (via Eurek Alert).

"Our study uniquely highlights just how much [we] impact the solid Earth, and could let us see more clearly than ever what differentiates [such] noise."
"The lockdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic may have given us a glimmer of insight into how human and natural noise interact within the Earth. We hope this insight will spawn new studies that help us listen better to the Earth and understand natural signals we would otherwise have missed," he concluded.

The new research comes as many countries have dropped their lockdown measures. In the United States, the decision to either continue or end quarantine rules has been a subject of much controversy, with many fearing a second wave of the virus.

The COVID-19 crisis has currently infected close to 16 million people around the world in addition to claiming the lives of around 640,000.

Despite fewer vibration-causing projects, it appears that the pandemic has not halted methane emissions. As was previously covered by The Inquisitr, global methane levels recently hit an all-time high.