Pre-pandemic humans were apparently noisy.
Though the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating in many ways, there's an interesting side-effect happening across the world: In the midst of quiet, scientists are able to listen to the earth.
Ever since the lockdowns and stay-at-home orders began, the earth's surface has become increasingly quiet. Scientists have discovered there is 50 percent less high frequency noise overall, as well as a 50-percent decrease in human industry noise.
International and domestic travel has decreased, as has regular commuter traffic, and many industries and factories are limiting their work or temporarily ceasing it at the moment.
Ordinarily, human noises make it difficult for scientists to measure the earth's seismological signals. Although scientists have the proper equipment to measure those things, noise on the earth's surface usually obstructs them from learning more about the effects of earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis.
In a paper, scientists explained the situation better:
“Seismometers in urban environments are important to maximize the spatial coverage of seismic networks and to warn of local geologic hazards, even though anthropogenic seismic noise degrades their capability to detect transient signals associated with earthquakes and volcanic eruption."
Now, scientists can use this quiet time to listen to the noises from the earth without too much human noise interfering. Scientists can also use this time to study the effects of human noise caused by automobile traffic or industry. Their data can thus be used to make seismic models off noise levels and patterns and predict events like earthquakes on small fault lines.
"Anthropogenic seismic noise is thought to be dominated by noise sources less than 1 [kilometer] away. However, the unique 2020 seismic noise quiet period reveals that when considering multiple stations or whole networks over longer time-scales, the anthropogenic seismic wavefield affects large areas," researchers at Royal Observatory of Belgium explained. “With denser networks and more citizen sensors in urban environments, more features of the seismic noise, rather than just amplitude, will become usable and will help to identify different anthropogenic noise sources."
Pretty interesting, right? Do you have any thoughts or input to share? Tell us in the comments!