Seattle Seahawks' Play Is Earth Shaking

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Seahawks fans celebration was so powerful that it registered as an earthquake. (John Froschauer/AP)
Seattle fans' celebration during the Seahawks' latest victory registered as an earthquake. (John Froschauer/AP)

On Monday night before a home crowd of over 68,ooo and a television audience of 15 million, Seattle Seahawks defensive linemen Michael Bennett returned a Saints fumble 22 yards for a first quarter touchdown in their 34-7 drubbing of the New Orleans Saints. The event also registered in the form of an earthquake.

That disturbance was recorded in Seattle at the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network. Bill spoke with the network's director John Vidale who is also a professor of earth and space sciences at the University of Washington.

BL: How large was this seismic event?

JV: It's very hard to compare to an earthquake cause it's a long rumble instead of a sharp puff like a tiny earthquake. We guess it's about the energy of a magnitude 1.0 or 2.0 earthquake. We saw it fairly clearly on one of our instruments.

BL: What was the response at the labs when crowd sound showed up that way?

JV: Well, actually it was just me. I was sitting in my office getting hungry and I thought I'd see exactly what the game showed on our instruments. So I was surprised.

BL: The Seahawks are 11-1, by far the best team in football right now. There must be some Seahawks fans manning seismographs for you I'm sure. 

[sidebar title="Chiefs Fans Sound Off" align= right]The Seahawks' fans are loud, but the Kansas City Chiefs' supporters are the loudest in the NFL.[/sidebar]JV: No, I think we're the only ones. In fact I hadn't been watching that closely except it was the two year anniversary practically of the Marshawn Lynch Beast Quake event. So with all the press paying attention I thought I better take a close look and see what was actually happening at the stadium.

BL: When I think about the idea of a man-made earthquake, I get a little uneasy. Does the Seahawks success pose an imitate danger to the state of Washington?

JV: Well, I'm not sure. I was a little bit nervous especially if two years ago when they were talking about making more and more noise with each game. You know, if people are organized they can really make a building sway when they move in unison, which does a lot more to the structure — stresses it a lot more than people ever will.

BL: We don't see this phenomenon during Seattle Mariners games. Why is that?

JV: [Laughs] I wouldn't be surprised if it was more subdued and also our instruments aren't quite as close.

BL: Somewhat smaller, too.

JV: Yeah, I think they'd be smaller events unfortunately.

BL: The Seahawks will be in San Francisco on Sunday to play the 49ers. I wonder if you're sending your staff down to the Bay Area for research purposes.

JV: No, the Oregon-California border is the line where it's Berkeley's territory. Berkeley [Seismological Laboratory] would have to do the instrumentation. Actually, one of their seismologists just invited me down to a tailgate party. It'd be interesting to see how loud their crowd is. It's tempting.

This segment aired on December 7, 2013.


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