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Coronavirus lockdown leads to longest and most prominent drop in seismic noise on record

The reduction in human-linked noise such as traffic during lockdown has led to the longest and most prominent seismic noise reduction in recorded history.
The reduction in human-linked noise such as traffic during lockdown has led to the longest and most prominent seismic noise reduction in recorded history.

New research claims the lack of activity during lockdown has led to human-linked vibrations on Earth reduce to the longest and most pronounced quiet period of seismic noise in recorded history.

Scientists from the University of Aberdeen helped to establish that Covid-19 lockdown measures led to a 50% reduction in seismic noise observed around the world in early to mid-2020.

The findings suggest the quiet period has been likely caused by the total global effect of social distancing measures, closure of services and industry, and drops in tourism and travel.

Dr David Cornwell, from the Aberdeen University’s School of Geosciences, is among over 70 researchers involved in a study that has established the period of global lockdown as the longest and most prominent anthropogenic (resulting from human activity) seismic noise reduction on record.

Using data recorded on ‘citizen seismometers’, Dr Cornwell calculated variations in seismic noise levels in locations around the world, including across Scotland, that coincided with different local lockdown periods.

The study was able to show that seismic noise reduced in many countries and regions, making it possible to visualise the resulting “wave” moving through China, then to Italy, and around the rest of the world.

Dr Cornwell said: “We took the data from a typical work day, such as 16 March, and compared it with the findings from 30 March, once lockdown had been implemented.

“It shows the reduction of factors such as construction, vehicles on the roads, helicopters flying out to the North Sea, and a similar fall in the number of aeroplanes, trains and other forms of commuter traffic. We are now monitoring noise levels as they gradually increase in response to easing of lockdown restrictions.”