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. That's where the NFL team plays its home games. Now scientists will use expected fan quakes during a game. It will be an 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 during a 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 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.
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 connectivity and readings.
A new tool called "QuickShake" is expected to display vibrations within three seconds. That 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. That's because TV 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. He is a UW professor emeritus of Earth and space sciences.
The seismologists also hope to test their website's traffic endurance and social media presence. It's an effort to go through the information dissemination procedures they would use during a real earthquake.
The collective energy of the quake is created by tens of thousands of fans. They are jumping, clapping, stomping and swaying, which travels throughout the stadium. That shakes the ground underneath, scientists said.
Critical thinking challenge: Why can't scientists know for certain when they will see the results of their test?