Taylor Swift concert triggers tremors equivalent to a 2.3 magnitude earthquake

Taylor Swift fans took her “Shake It Off” musical advice literally this week, triggering seismic activity equivalent to a 2.3 magnitude earthquake at her concert in Seattle, seismologists say.

Seismologist at Western Washington University Jackie Caplan-Auerbach first investigated the activity, which fans are calling a “fast earthquake,” after she saw chatter in a social media group she monitors about Pacific Northwest earthquakes.

“I grabbed 10 hours of data from when the doors opened until well after I thought the audience had gone home and I just plotted it out to see how the ground shook,” she told Seattle’s King 5 news.

Seismic data showed that the activity generated by Swift’s “Eras” tour concert at Lumen Field was comparable to a similar “Beast quake” in 2011, set off by Seattle Seahawks football fans after a touchdown by Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch, Caplan-Auerbach said, though she added reserved that the two events were different, making direct comparisons difficult.

“I don’t really want to get into a laughing match between Seahawks fans and Swifties, but I will say the Swifties have it in the bag,” she said. “This was much larger than the Beast Quake in terms of the raw amplitude of shaking, and of course it continued much longer.”

Fellow seismologist James Hammond, professor of geophysics at Birkbeck, University of London, said in an interview that it’s actually “quite common” for people partying to create such vibrations that send “a lot of energy into the ground.” That energy travels as sound waves through the Earth, he said, and is measured using sensitive seismometers.

“However, a magnitude 2.3 earthquake is quite small, so I expect it will only be felt quite close to the concert,” Hammond said, noting that it would not have caused any damage due to its “relatively small amount of energy that is released.”

Similar peaks occur at music festivals and sports matches, he added. Below coronavirus pandemicvibrations from human activity were “significantly reduced” around the world during lockdowns and social restrictions.

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At least one of Swift’s Seattle concerts reportedly sold out broke the attendance record at Lumen Field, which has a capacity of about 72,000 people.

Although no specific song was responsible for the vibrations, it’s likely that the blaring sound system and fans’ cheering, stamping and dancing combined to cause the activity, experts say.

“I collected about 10 hours of data where the rhythm controlled the behavior. The music, the speakers, the beat. All that energy can drive into the ground and shake it,” Caplan-Auerbach told CNN.

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Swift has not publicly acknowledged the seismic activity, however submitted on social media that the Seattle concerts were very lively.

“Seattle, it was really one of my favorite weekends ever,” she said. “Thank you for everything. All the cheering, screaming, jumping, dancing, singing at the top of your lungs.”

Tarje Nissen-Meyer, a geophysicist at the University of Oxford, said in an interview that the vibrations were not surprising and “basic physics.”

“Vibrations from all sorts of sources constantly excite the earth,” he said. “If tens of thousands of Swifties dance in sync, it induces a significant vibrational force on the ground,” he added, using a common nickname for his fans.

Seismic waves are currently used to study landslides, ocean weather, glaciers and traffic, among other things. But with the improvement of high-precision seismic instrumentation, Nissen-Meyer said, it could be the case that we hear about more such social events discovered in the future.

“Just like we can infer different types of earthquakes, maybe you could tell a Taylor Swift concert from a Bad Religion one day. It all depends on the amount of data that’s recorded and processed,” he said, noting that he personally prefers a different genre of music, but acknowledges Swift’s “huge talent.”

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Swift’s USA trip is now in California and she is going to Mexico at the end of August. There has been an unprecedented demand for concert tickets across the globe, sparking headlines, political debates about ticket providers and an outpouring of shared frustration and jubilation on social media among her loyal fans.

The next big artist to play at Lumen Field will be Beyoncé in September, and geologist Caplan-Auerbach tweeted that she was busy working on a “ticketing proposal”, in an attempt to compare the two events. “For science,” she added.

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