Coronavirus lockdown changing the way the Earth vibrates is a reminder that nobody is alone during the pandemic

Coronavirus lockdown changing the way the Earth vibrates is a reminder that nobody is alone during the pandemic
Roads that were normally clogged by traffic jams now lie barren in India as the nationwide lockdown has people at homeBCCL

  • The Coronavirus lockdown has brought human activity to a standstill and changed the way the Earth vibrates.
  • Seismologists all over the world have observed a drop in ‘background noise’ as factories close their doors and people stay at home.
  • It’s also a reminder that nobody is alone, the silence is everywhere — everyone is at home together.
Lockdowns may be shutting down factories and halting production, but they’re a boon for geoscientists. Not only is the air getting cleaner, but lack of noise pollution has changed the normal movement of Earth.

There has been a huge drop in seismic noise — the vibrations of the planet’s crust. Scientists believe it could be a result of transportation systems and other human activity coming to a standstill after many countries implemented a lockdown to stop the spread of Coronavirus.

The way the Earth’s crust moves isn’t only dependent on natural events like earthquakes, it is also determined by moving vehicles and industrial machinery. In the UK, Stephen Hicks from the Imperial College shared an image of what that drop looks like.

Individual effects may be minute, but collectively they produce a lot of background noise. In fact, it can be so disruptive that it leaves seismic stations “basically useless”, like the one in Brussels, Thomas Lecocq — a seismologist at the Royal Observatory of Belgium — told Nature.

Other countries like France and New Zealand also observed a reduction in ambient seismic noise since the lockdown.

A reminder how the pandemic is affecting human behaviour
The lack of background noise is evidence that people are staying at home, according to experts. In addition, it’s a window of opportunity for seismologists to conduct accurate observations that otherwise may not have been possible.

More importantly, it’s a reminder that nobody is going through this alone. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi pointed out during today morning’s video message, collective strength is imperative to face the challenges in front of us right now.

"From the seismological point of view, we can motivate people to say, 'OK look, people. You feel like you're alone at home, but we can tell you that everyone is home. Everyone is doing the same. Everyone is respecting the rules,” Lococq told Nature.

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