Under unfortunate and bizarre conditions, researchers are now studying the Earth’s movements as a majority of its citizens are locked down. Scrambling to collect data during the surreal slowdown of life, scientists are measuring how the pandemic is being felt across land, air, and sea.
Normally seismologists wouldn’t pick up a 5.5 magnitude earthquake from the other side of the world, but due to the reduction in noise, their instruments are now registering it. Images showing cleaner air over China and Europe related to the lockdowns have also been a focus of the scientific and political communities, as the lack of commerce has provided a brief respite in those parts of the world who suffer from high levels of air pollution. According to an analysis by Marshall Burke, a professor in Stanford’s Earth-system science department, a pandemic-related reduction in particulate matter in the atmosphere, which is the deadliest form of air pollution is likely going to save the lives of 4,000 young children and 73,000 elderly adults in China alone during just the past two months. Again we have to ask, what effect this is going to have on policy decisions moving forward?
Traditional sounds within cities are also changing as public-transit agencies cut service and fewer people are driving. One researcher from Boston University, took a decibel meter with her on her socially distanced walks and says the acoustic environment in Kenmore Square, a busy intersection near campus, is usually about 90 decibels, but now measures 68. It’s worth mentioning, that a subway train registers at 95 decibels, which are at levels leading to hearing impairment if you are in that environment regularly. Interestingly, city dwellers are also questioning if the bird sounds they are now hearing were always there and just muted, or were they not paying attention or did the birds just recently return to the city? If you do a quick search for the phrase “birds are louder” on Twitter, it reveals that many other people are wondering and asking the same thing lately.
Scientists are also noticing the oceans are quieter as well and are now starting studies on how the waters have changed in the absence of cruise ships as the industry suspends operations worldwide.
It’s interesting to think about the number of things that have changed and lives that were saved by reducing “noise” and “air” pollution. Many scientific studies suggest that noise pollution can negatively impact our health, contributing to stress-related ailments, high blood pressure, sleep disruption, and other problems. I’m as ready as anyone to get out of this lockdown period, but it’s interesting to think about the positive benefits. I continue to argue that this coronavirus pauses will bring about a bigger political push towards things like climate change, global warming, labor automation, healthcare, etc… (Source: Fortune, Weather.com, Nature.com)