SEATTLE – Taylor Swift and her fans rocked Lumen Field so much last weekend that they shook the ground enough to register on a nearby seismometer.
Western Washington University professor of geology Jackie Caplan-Auerbach discovered this phenomenon when asked by a colleague whether the Taylor Swift concerts on July 22 and 23 made a "Beast Quake."
The Beast Quake was a seismic event that occurred at Lumen Field in 2011 when the Seattle Seahawk's Marshawn Lynch scored a touchdown during a playoff game. The crowd's celebration shook the ground at the stadium enough to register on seismometers. Given Lynch’s nickname of "Beast Mode", the seismic activity was dubbed the "Beast Quake".
Because of Seattle’s history and reputation for its raucous fans, the potentially seismic nature of a concert performed by one of the world's biggest pop stars became a topic of discussion among seismologists, such as Caplan-Auerbach.
She looked at data from a seismometer for the two dates Swift performed at Lumen Field and discovered that the line registering seismic activity for those dates was virtually identical, indicating that the shaking ground that was detected came from the concerts.
"That really tells us that we're looking at a set list," Caplan-Auerbach said. "We're looking at the same patterns of rhythms and songs over and over again."
When asked how much the Swift concerts shook the ground compared to the Beast Quake of 2011, Caplan-Auerbach noted a significant difference.
"It shook the ground twice as strong as the original Beast Quake," she said. "So, that was fun to see, that this event was really, really quite an energetic event from a seismic perspective."
Part of this seismic activity is largely influenced by the type of ground upon which Seattle rests. According to Caplan-Auerbach, the geology of the area is a landfill, describing it as soft and soupy. Because of this, ground shaking, such as those caused by raucous fans at a music concert or football game, is amplified.
She also noted that, despite the ground shaking during the Taylor Swift concert, the event was technically not an earthquake.
"One of the little bits of earth science I hope people get out of that is to recognize that these really big things that humans can do kind of do not touch what the planet can do," she said. "Earthquakes are simply larger than crowd noise."
The Taylor Swift crowd has taken quite an interest in the geological nature of their concert experience. According to Caplan-Auerbach, Swifties have reached out to the professor to share their data, videos and experiences from the concerts, which Caplan-Auderbach is including in her studies.
"I'm just really grateful to this community for their willingness to share their enthusiasm about doing science via Taylor Swift," she said. "So, it's been really, really great."