New seismological data shows that isolation policies geared toward combating the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus are responsible for the recent reduction in seismic noise – allowing researchers to better detect earthquakes and other related events.

While there has been little good news resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, seismologists in the UK, US and Belgium have reported significant declines in local seismic noise following government-ordered lockdowns and decreased travel.

Seismic noise is what’s used to describe the vibrations produced by everyday human activity and travel. These vibrations shake the Earth’s crust and build off one another, ultimately interfering with seismologists’ ability to detect important events such as earthquakes or tsunamis.

“There’s a big chance, indeed, it could lead to better measurements,” he noted.

UK Seismologist Stephen Hicks brought attention to this detail on Twitter late last month, referencing raw seismic data from the British Geological Survey.

This trend continued in more recent data from the British Geological Survey.

Speaking to Nature, Royal Observatory of Belgium seismologist Thomas Lecocq revealed that Brussels experienced a one-third drop in seismic noise since the city closed restaurants and schools on March 14 and issued a lockdown four days later.

The number of novel coronavirus cases worldwide has surpassed 1 million, and at least 58,000 related deaths have been reported, according to the Johns Hopkins University dashboard. The US, which does not have a federal lockdown in place, currently accounts for nearly a quarter of the global cases, and at least 6,605 deaths have been confirmed in the country.



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