Scientists will use football fans to simulate quake
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It gets so loud at Seattle Seahawks home games that the ground literally shakes. The jumps, stomps and roars of fans cheering on the NFL team now will be used for an experiment. Scientists will measure those expected fan quakes during a game. The experts plan to experiment with an earthquake early warning system.
Scientists first noticed the earth shaking around the Seahawks' stadium during a 2011 playoff game. That's when running back Marshawn Lynch broke eight tackles and ran 67 yards. It was during one 13-second play against the New Orleans Saints. That run was considered one of the most impressive in NFL history. It sparked a very big fan reaction. It was big enough to create a seismic tremor. The small quake was recorded near the stadium. Fans jumped and stomped their way to a magnitude -1 or -2 earthquake.
It became known as the "Beast Quake." That's because of Lynch's nickname.
Now University of Washington scientists with the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network have installed three instruments in the stadium. Two are up in the stands. One is by the playing field. Seismologists have used such instruments at the stadium in the past. But this year's experiment features faster readings.
They will try out a new tool. It's called "QuickShake." It is expected to display vibrations within three seconds. That is five to 10 times faster than the tool used with the sensors last year.
If a big play prompts a fan quake, viewers monitoring the seismic network's webpage will see the activity. Even before they see it on television. That's because TV has about a 10-second delay during broadcast.
Steve Malone is a UW professor emeritus of Earth and space sciences. He said the experiment should provide a feel for the minimum time an early warning might provide.
The seismologists also hope to test their website's traffic endurance and social media presence.
The collective energy is created by tens of thousands of fans. They are jumping, clapping, stomping and swaying. The reverberations travel throughout the stadium. That shakes the ground underneath.
If the home team plays well, the ground just might move.
Critical thinking challenge: Why can't scientists know for certain when they will see the results of their test?