Monitoring human activity at a very local scale with ground-motion records: The early stage of covid-19 pandemic in california, u.s.a., new york city, u.s.a., and mexicali, mexico


In this article, we analyze the change in anthropogenic seismic noise level within a frequency range of 4-14 Hz, through a survey of seismic stations in California, United States, New York City, United States, and Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico from early December 2019 to late April 2020. Our analysis shows that some stations recorded a drop in anthropogenic seismic noise during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the timing of the anthropogenic noise decrease typically correlates with the timing of a strict curtailment of personal and economic activity issued by the local government. In other locations, the drop in the anthropogenic seismic noise appears not to follow the lockdown timing perfectly.Duringour analysis,weobservedthatmanystations didnot recordadropduring the early stageofCOVID-19pandemic. Ofthe 19 stationsof the Southern California Seismic Network that were surveyed, we found that only five show a similar extent of drop in anthropogenic seismic noise comparable to the Christmas holiday break in 2019. This suggests that the human activity that caused seismic noise did not significantly reduce during the COVID-19 pandemic near most surveyed stations in southern California. A further analysis implies that the primary seismic noise source in southern California might be traffic, and the continuation of industrial traffic, such as cargo transportation, during the COVID-19 pandemic may be the reason why many stations did not record a noise drop. Our results show that the anthropogenic seismic noise recorded by seismic stations is capable of indicating human activity, and that thismetric is, particularly, powerful inmeasuring how localized communities initially responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Publication Title

Seismological Research Letters