Seattle Seahawks Fans Literally Caused Earthquake At Saturday's Game; Comes After Previous Records For Noise

By Ben Wolford on January 13, 2014 2:07 PM EST

Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) scores a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints during the second half of the 2013 NFC divisional playoff football game at CenturyLink Field. (Reuters/Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sport)
Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) scores a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints during the second half of the 2013 NFC divisional playoff football game at CenturyLink Field. (Reuters/Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sport)

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The Seattle Seahawks fans have done it again. In the past, they have split eardrums and caused earthquakes, but on Saturday they made another notable contribution to tectonic unrest by setting off a possible magnitude 2 or higher earthquake as the team defeated the New Orleans Saints. Local seismologists, whose job it is to look for real earthquakes in the city, said the the fan-quakes are good for them: "It's a good test for the network," one remarked.

Man-made earthquakes aren't totally unheard of. Scientists have documented earthquakes resulting from a range of energy production-related activities, according to Wired. For example, dams sometimes cause quakes when lake-sized volumes of water fill the earth. It's just like holding out a bucket and then filling it with water; you might have to shift your weight a little. The Earth's crust similarly responds to injections of toxic chemicals or spent hydrolic fracturing fluid. Extracting resources, like coal, also can cause earthquakes. Still, the Hoover Dam is one thing — but jumping and stomping?

All of this talk of fans causing an earthquake may have been dismissed as trash talk. Except that actual scientists installed actual seismometers near CenturyLink Field, where the Seakhawks play their home games — two within the stadium and one about a block away. The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, which conducted the experiment, is the organization responsible for understanding and warning the public about earthquakes in the region. The Pacific Northwest, of course, is prone to seismic activity because it lies along the Ring of Fire, a tectonic crossroads that circles the Pacific Ocean.

"The 'Beast Quake' of Jan. 8, 2011, indicated to us that Seattle Seahawk fans can really rock the world," the Seismic Network wrote on a website they created specifically for the Seahawks. "We want to be better prepared this time." This so-called "Beast Quake" caught the seismologists off guard when it happened last year (also against those poor Saints). The roar of the crowd shook their seismic sensor a block away. The Seismic Network said a one-sensor signal is sometimes hard to verify, but the timing of the shake lined up perfectly with a 15-second touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch. They made an awesome graphic that highlights portions of the vibration that align with him finding the hole, breaking the tackle, and so on. The experts said that was probably equal to a magnitude 1 or 2 earthquake.

These seismic readouts show the moment when the Seahawks scored the first touchdown against the New Orleans Saints on Saturday. (Photo: Pacific Northwest Seismic Network)
These seismic readouts show the moment when the Seahawks scored the first touchdown against the New Orleans Saints on Saturday. (Photo: Pacific Northwest Seismic Network)

This time they were ready. "This signal looks bigger than the one three years ago," John Vidale, director of the Seismic Network at the University of Washington, told The Seattle Times. "But we don't know yet." He added that "It's a good test for the network to make sure we can do a good job in an earthquake."

This isn't the first experiment that's been conducted using Seahawks fans as guinea pigs. In December, more than 68,000 fans set a crowd noise record. Their cheering pushed the decibel meter to 137.6. It beat out by one-tenth of a decibel the previous record set by, you guessed it, the Saints fans in New Orleans.

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