Swifties have taken their love for pop superstar Taylor Swift to another level — literally shaking the Earth beneath them with their passion.
At two “Eras” tour concerts at Seattle’s Lumen Field on July 22 and 23, Swift and her fans managed to make enough noise and movement to actually rock the ground beneath them for four straight hours, causing a “Swift Quake,” according to Jackie Caplan-Auerbach, a geology professor at Western Washington University.
While the seismic event caused by the concert was not an actual earthquake, its occurrence is still the subject of great curiosity amongst experts and pop fans alike, Caplan-Auerbach told CBS News.
Though the “Swift Quake” has created a lot of buzz, Caplan-Auerbach said geologists in the Seattle area aren’t unfamiliar with the concept of a crowd or stadium causing a seismic event at Lumen Field.
In 2011, during an NFL playoff game between the Seattle Seahawks and the New Orleans Saints at what was then called Qwest Field, running back Marshawn Lynch, nicknamed “Beast Mode,” broke through the Saints defense to score a critical game-clinching touchdown for the Seahawks, driving the crowd wild. The crowd’s response was so robust, it shook the ground and registered on the nearby seismometer, earning the name “Beast Quake.”
Since then, scientists have taken an interest in the stadium, according to Caplan-Auerbach — but more in regards to football than musical concerts.
Swift’s concerts registered on the same seismometer, and were brought to the attention of the geology professor after a user inquired about their “quake factor” on a Facebook page about Pacific Northwest earthquakes moderated by Caplan-Auerbach.
“Someone posted on that and said, ‘Hey did the Taylor Swift concert make a Beast Quake?'”
After looking back at the data recorded by the seismometer, Caplan-Auerbach determined that the concert did indeed produce a Beast Quake, but according to the professor, Swift’s concerts caused a stronger and longer shake-up.
“The actual amount that the ground shook at its strongest was about twice as big during what I refer to as the Beast Quake (Taylor’s Version),” she explained. “It also, of course, lasted for hours. The original Beast Quake was a celebration on the part of some very excited fans that lasted maybe 30 seconds.”
Fortunately, the hours-long jolting did not have a negative impact on Earth, as the event itself was not an actual earthquake. But the occurrence can help contribute to our scientific understanding of earthquakes, the geologist said.
“What it does have the potential to do is to help us understand better what this immediate area beneath the stadium — how that geology responds to shaking, how buildings vibrate, how seismic energy is propagated through that geology,” Caplan-Auerbach said. “That’s important to us because how buildings respond in earthquakes often has to do with how the subsurface shakes.”
“The more we know about that, the better we can design buildings to be resilient in case of earthquakes,” she added.
Although many seismic events caused by concerts or sporting events have not been examined, it’s possible this phenomena has taken place during similar events in other locations — they just may not have been recorded. Caplan-Auerbach said it could be because there are no seismometers near many arenas and stadiums, and also because scientists are not necessarily looking for this specific information.
What stood out the most to Caplan-Auerbach throughout this investigation was the sudden and encouraging high interest in seismology and geology.
“I was so excited about the fact that all these Swifties have reached out to me, and that all these people are engaging in science, because I think it’s really important to demystify the scientific process,” she said. “Anybody who can make an observation, who can collect data, who can think about, ‘Wow, why does that work and how would I know?’ is doing science.”
The next steps studying the Swift Quake will involve trying to pinpoint what exactly was causing the seismic activity— jumping and dancing by fans, loud speakers, a certain song or genre of song?
Swift fans who attended the two Seattle concerts have been sending videos to Caplan-Auerbach, and providing her with valuable insight in her research. And while she’s not quite a “Swiftie” yet, the professor says she just might be after listening to song after song from the concert to get to the bottom of what caused the ground to shake like it did.
“I would not be surprised if I came out the back end as a Swiftie,” she said.