Drop in noise pollution means a data boom for earthquake scientists

Published April 13, 2020 at 9:43 pm


OTTAWA — For earthquake scientists, having hundreds of millions of people off the streets and out of the skies is providing a bonanza of data about the planet.

All those planes, trains and automobiles that aren’t running because of stay-home policies meant to fight the spread of COVID-19 have cut noise pollution so much seismologists can hear sounds from inside Earth they never could before.

John Cassidy, an earthquake seismologist with Natural Resources Canada, says holidays like Christmas are the closest we ever get to this kind of quiet and that’s only for a day at a time.

Cassidy says without the seismology equipment picking up all the human-generated noise scientists are recording small earthquakes all over the world that normally go unnoticed.

The extra information is helpful for everything from monitoring active volcanoes to better defining fault zones and even developing better images of Earth’s structure.

Cassidy says that won’t help predict future big earthquakes yet but will be useful in helping engineers create better building codes for earthquake prone regions.

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