Swifties have taken their love for pop superstar Taylor Swift to another level – literally shaking the ground beneath them with their passion.
Two o’clockconcerts at Seattle’s Lumen Field on July 22 and 23, Swift and her fans managed to make enough noise and movement to actually shake the ground beneath them for four straight hours, causing a “Swift Quake,” according to Jackie Caplan-Auerbach, a geology professor at Western Washington University.
Although the seismic event caused by the concert was not an actual earthquake, its occurrence is still the subject of great curiosity among experts and pop fans alike, Caplan-Auerbach told CBS News.
Although the “Swift Quake” has created a lot of buzz, Caplan-Auerbach said Seattle-area geologists are not unfamiliar with the concept of a crowd or stadium causing a seismic event at Lumen Field.
In 2011, during an NFL playoff game between the Seattle Seahawks and the New Orleans Saints at what was then called Qwest Field, running back Marshawn Lynch, nicknamed “Beast Mode,” broke through Saints defense to score a critical game-clinching touchdown for the Seahawks, driving the crowd wild. The crowd’s reaction was so robust that it shook the ground and was recorded on the nearby seismometer, earning the name “Beast Quake”.
Since then, researchers have been interested in the stadium, according to Caplan-Auerbach – but more in terms of football than musical concerts.
Swift’s concerts were recorded on the same seismometer and were brought to the attention of the geology professor after a user asked about their “quake factor” on a Facebook page about Pacific Northwest earthquakes moderated by Caplan-Auerbach.
“Someone wrote about it and said, ‘Hey did the Taylor Swift concert make a Beast Quake?'”
After looking back at the data recorded by the seismometer, Caplan-Auerbach determined that the concert did indeed produce a Beast Quake, but according to the professor, Swift’s concerts caused a stronger and longer shaking.
“The actual amount that the earth shook at its strongest was about twice that during what I refer to as the Beast Quake (Taylor’s Version),” she explained. “Obviously it lasted for hours as well. The original Beast Quake was a celebration of some very excited fans that lasted maybe 30 seconds.”
Fortunately, the hours-long tremors did not have a negative impact on Earth, as the event itself was not an actual earthquake. But the occurrence could contribute to our scientific understanding of earthquakes, the geologist said.
“What it has the potential to do is help us understand better what this immediate area under the stadium — how that geology responds to shaking, how buildings vibrate, how seismic energy is propagated through that geology,” Caplan-Auerbach said. “It’s important to us because how buildings react in earthquakes often has to do with how the ground shakes.”
“The more we know about it, the better we can design buildings to be resilient in the event of an earthquake,” she added.
Although many seismic events caused by concerts or sporting events have not been investigated, it is possible that this phenomenon has occurred during similar events elsewhere – they may not have been recorded. Caplan-Auerbach said that could be because there aren’t seismometers near many arenas and stadiums, and also because scientists aren’t necessarily looking for this specific information.
What stood out most to Caplan-Auerbach throughout this study was the sudden and encouraging interest in seismology and geology.
“I was so excited about the fact that all these Swifties have reached out to me and that all these people are engaging in science because I think it’s really important to demystify the scientific process,” she said. “Anyone who can make an observation, who can collect data, who can think, ‘Wow, why does this work and how would I know?’ doing science.”
The next steps in studying the Swift Quake will involve trying to figure out what exactly caused the seismic activity – the jumping and dancing of fans, speakers, a particular song or genre of song?
Swift fans who attended the two Seattle concerts have sent videos to Caplan-Auerbach, giving her valuable insight into her research. And while she’s not quite a “Swiftie” yet, the professor says she might after listening to song after song from the concert to get to the bottom of what made the earth shake the way it did.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if I came out the rear as a Swiftie,” she said.