COVID-19 lockdown having impact as the Earth becomes ‘quiet’

COVID-19 lockdown having impact as the Earth becomes 'quiet'
WatchThe impact of millions upon millions of people staying in their homes, and out of the skies, is having a dramatic impact. Below our feet, scientists are finding a

An unforeseen impact of the coronavirus lockdown is becoming clearer every day.

According to the president and CEO of Ocean Networks Canada, Kate Moran, the air quality is improving.

“We are certainly seeing it all over the globe in terms of air pollution. You can actually see that very clearly,” Moran said.

She said scientists are also starting to see what happens when the ocean is quieter.

“It becomes less impact on certainly on, southern resident killer whales, for sure and other marine mammals as well,” Moran said.

With fewer planes in the air, fewer vehicles on the roads, the earth is as quiet as it’s been in our lifetimes, allowing seismologists a unique look at what’s happening below the surface of the Earth.

John Cassidy, an earthquake seismologist with Natural Resources Canada,said the coronavirus lockdown is having an impact.

“It is eerily quiet. In terms of this ‘background seismic noise’ it’s down by 40,50,60 per cent in many cases.”

Cassidy said for the first time, scientists can hear tiny movements, that may have a big impact in the future.

“The potential in some areas, in some locations, is to see these tiny events…that can be related to the movement of magma,” Cassidy said.

According to Cassidy, there are precedents when it comes to these thousands of tiny movements recorded by seismometers.

“As we saw at Mount Saint Helens about 40 years ago, there were thousands, upon thousands of tiny earthquakes beneath Mount Saint Helens before it erupted,” Cassidy said.

Moran said sound levels have also changed underwater.   Researchers with Ocean Networks Canada installed hydrophone arrays on the ocean bed floor in the Strait of Georgia in March.  It is like a microphone, listening to everything.

“We’ll be looking to see if there is a reduction in noise. Because that’s always important to understand better how marine mammals will respond,” Moran said.

There are less ships on the ocean transporting goods, less boats carrying tourists, and scientists will know in the next few weeks what, if anything, less sea traffic is having.

“It’s a horrific crisis we’re in. But it’s really demonstrating when we slow our selves down, the environment does get better,” Moran said.

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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