Scientists will use football fans to simulate quake As several pieces of seismic monitoring equipment sit on the floor, a scientist does a "stomp test" to check the gear at the Seattle Seahawks' field. At left, a scientist points out a seismogram display on a monitor (AP photos)
Scientists will use football fans to simulate quake
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The jumps, stomps and roars of fans cheering on the Seattle Seahawks have been known to shake the ground around CenturyLink Field. Now scientists will use expected fan quakes during a playoff game to experiment with an earthquake early warning system.

Scientists first noticed the earth shaking around the Seahawks' stadium during a 2011 playoff game when running back Marshawn Lynch broke eight tackles and ran 67 yards during a 13-second play against the New Orleans Saints. That run, considered one of the most impressive in NFL history, sparked a fan reaction big enough that it created a seismic tremor recorded by a monitoring station near the stadium. Fans jumped and stomped their way to a magnitude -1 or -2 earthquake.

It became known as the "Beast Quake" because of Lynch's nickname.

"We became interested of what we could see if we put the instruments closer, right in the stadium with people in the stands," said John Vidale of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network.

University of Washington scientists with the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network have installed three instruments in the stadium, two up in the stands and one by the playing field. Seismologists have used such instruments at the stadium in the past, but this year's experiment features faster connectivity and readings.

A new tool called "QuickShake" is expected to display vibrations within three seconds, which is five to 10 times faster than the tool used with the sensors last year, the scientists said.

If a big play prompts a fan quake, viewers monitoring the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network's webpage will see the activity before they see it on television, which has about a 10-second delay during broadcast.

"The Seahawks experiment should provide us and the Internet-connected public with a feel for the minimum time early warning might provide," said Steve Malone, a UW professor emeritus of Earth and space sciences.

Besides giving fans the option of monitoring the earth movement around the stadium, the seismologists are hoping to test their website's traffic endurance and social media presence in an effort to go through the information dissemination procedures they would use during a real earthquake.

"It's hard to simulate thousands of people using this tool all at once. When we can get a lot of people looking, we can see problems that we'd encounter during an actual earthquake," Vidale said.

The collective energy is created by tens of thousands of fans jumping, clapping, stomping and swaying, which travels throughout the stadium, shaking the ground underneath, scientists said.

Critical thinking challenge: Why can't scientists know for certain when they will see the results of their test?

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COMMENTS (37)
  • r2000soccer
    1/22/2015 - 08:43 a.m.

    scientists can't know for certain when they will see the results of their test because It's hard to simulate thousands of people using this tool all at once. When they can get a lot of people looking.

  • romanj-Orv
    1/22/2015 - 12:08 p.m.

    wow very interesting, i remember that play while i was watching. the bar made the ground shake just with 100 people alone, imagine that with like 45k people. i wonder if this could make a real earthquake happen

  • TaylorHartman-Ste
    1/22/2015 - 01:04 p.m.

    Pretty interesting to know that all of the movements from a Seattle Seahawk game can cause quakes to happen. I would not be surprised if little earthquakes happen daily due to those types of environments.

  • TehyaWhite-Ste
    1/22/2015 - 01:07 p.m.

    It's funny to me that so many rowdy people make such a resembling effect to an earthquake that it is now actually being used scientifically. The only real problem is that there is a delay so I don't know if it will actually skew the evidence they collect or not.

  • coltons-Lam
    1/22/2015 - 03:52 p.m.

    Centruylink is a loud place to play. All the QBs that play there say it is very difficult to play there because it is really loud. It is so loud that the opposing offense's who play there get a lot of false starts. #GoHawks!#SuperBowl#Repeat!

  • stevenm-Lam
    1/22/2015 - 03:55 p.m.

    You're right, it would be cool to calculate the foot steps in the stadium calculating every step everyone makes. That's why it would be cool that they would make things to calculate people's foot movement.

  • odalysr-Lam
    1/22/2015 - 04:03 p.m.

    Exactly, the Seahawks have come a very long way to get recognized! And now everyone loves the comeback they have given! Can't wait to see them fight their hearts out and win the 2k15 super bowl!

  • BrigitteA-3
    1/22/2015 - 08:53 p.m.

    A couple of earthquake tools were put into the Seahawk stadium after a -1 to a -2 earthquake was recorded during one of their playoff games. Fans jumping up and down and stomping caused thre ground around the stadium to shake. This "earthquake" is going to be used to test if we can further predict earthquakes in the future. I think that this research could come in handy in the future to help us understand earthquakes better and to prepare more in the case that an earthquake might happen.

  • EricG-Kan
    1/23/2015 - 09:12 a.m.

    How would it be possible to make an earthquake out of so many people by just jumping around and moving? I wonder if that would work for any other part of the world.

  • 3JonaHH
    1/23/2015 - 10:34 a.m.

    the fans in the seahawks stadium are the loudest and most cheerful and loud people there is i think its a great idea to use seahawks fans as an earthquake cuz they seem like the perfect people for it.

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