The coronavirus pandemic has brought overwhelming disruptions to our daily lives, slowing down economic processes and - curiously - our planet’s movement, Nature reported.
As the lion's share of citizens around the world stay in allowing the novel virus to run its course, researchers who study Earth’s crust have reported much less seismic noise.
The latter is caused not only by natural phenomena like earthquakes, but also industrial activity and transport hum, which are typically to a great extent lower during Christmas holidays, for example. However, this time the reduction in background noise has occurred due to across the board COVID-19 shutdowns- of schools, restaurants, offices, and other public venues- and travel bans in quite a few states around the world.
According to Thomas Lecocq, a seismologist at the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Brussels, the seismic noise has of late gone down by one third due to diminished human activity, which has boosted the sensitivity of the observatory’s equipment and its ability to detect same-frequency waves.
It essentially means that seismologists are able to collect more accurate data than usual, despite respective research centres being located in big cities, typically characterised by permanent hustle and bustle.
"You'll get a signal with less noise on top, allowing you to squeeze a little more information out of those events", Andy Frassetto, a seismologist at the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology in Washington DC told Nature.
His colleague from Los Angeles has noticed the same trend.
Celeste Labedz, a graduate student in geophysics at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, tweeted that a similar fall in seismic background noise had been registered by a station in Los Angeles.
“The drop is seriously wild", she said, whereas stations located far away from the busy life of cities are understood to be picking up the same level of noise as before.
The coronavirus pandemic has been sweeping across the globe for several months now, with the first case having been reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan, Hubei Province, in mid-December. The number of overall cases has to date hit 1,133,000, per the WHO.
The ubiquitous lockdowns, quarantines, and self-isolation measures, meant to curb the spread of the infectious COVID-19 disease, have had a detrimental effect on the global economy, harming stock markets, fuel sales and citizens’ well-being at large. Governments around the world are currently working to come up with appropriate measures - fiscal and monetary - to deal with the fallout, and support the worst hit segments - small and medium businesses.