Coronavirus ripple effects are changing the Earth’s movement

April 2, 2020, 3:45 PM UTC

Life on Earth has slowed so much as a result of the coronavirus pandemic that the Earth might be moving less than it usually does, say scientists in Belgium.

The Royal Observatory of Belgium has taken note of seismic activity across the globe as people stay home and the world’s transportation systems slow and shut down. And they’re saying the lack of vibrations from that movement are giving them clearer insight into other natural disasters.

Specifically, the lack of background noise from cars, trucks, and industrial machinery is letting seismologists better detect smaller earthquakes and more closely monitor volcanic activity. Vibrations caused by human activity in Belgium have fallen by about one-third since lockdown orders were implemented. That’s being replicated in other parts of the world, though not all areas will see such a precipitous decline.

Ultimately, say scientists, that could make it easier to detect the location of earthquake aftershocks and determine levels of volcanic activity.

The drop is also being experienced in both London and Los Angeles. One geophysics graduate student referred to it as “seriously wild.”

Micro earthquakes occur frequently throughout the planet, but are sometimes harder to track because of the background noise from human activity. The U.S. Geological Survey’s Volcano Hazards Program, a division of the Department of the Interior, notes that in Yellowstone alone there are approximately 2,000 quakes per year.

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