Did Taylor Swift Fans Cause an Earthquake in Seattle? Not Exactly, Says Seismologist

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Taylor Swift Seattle

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Photo Credit: Jackie Caplan-Auerbach

Did Taylor Swift fans cause an earthquake in Seattle? Not exactly, says seismologist Jackie Caplan-Auerbach — but they did beat out Beast Quake.

According to seismologist Jackie Caplan-Auerbach, Taylor Swift’s pair of earth-shaking concerts on the Seattle stop in her Eras Tour caused seismic activity equivalent to a 2.3 magnitude earthquake. 

The “Swift Quake” was detected on the same local seismometer as the 2011 “Beast Quake,” in which Seattle Seahawks fans erupted after running back Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch’s famous touchdown. A geology professor at Western Washington University, Caplan-Auerbach quickly went to work comparing data after seismology enthusiasts made a comparison of the two events in an earthquake Facebook group she moderates.

“Somebody posted and said, ‘Well, did the Taylor Swift concert make a Beast Quake?’ And I was like, ‘Oh, I am on that; that’s fun,’” she said. “I grabbed the data from both nights of the concert and quickly noticed they were clearly the same pattern of signals; if I overlay them on top of each other, they’re nearly identical.”

The main variation between the July 22 and July 23 shows — aside from the “surprise songs” Swift sings that vary between performances — is a difference of about 26 minutes due to a delay on Sunday night’s performance that led to the concert starting about half an hour late.

But the difference between the “Swift Quake” and 2011’s “Beast Quake” is notable; the magnitude difference is only 0.3, but Caplan-Auerbach says the shaking at the Taylor Swift concerts was twice as strong.

“The primary difference is the duration of the shaking,” said Caplan-Auerbach. “Cheering after a touchdown lasts for a couple of seconds, but eventually it dies down. It’s much more random than a concert. For Taylor Swift, I collected about 10 hours of data where rhythm controlled the behavior. The music, the speakers, the beat. All that energy can drive into the ground and shake it.”

So while it certainly appears that Swifties have the Seahawks beat, the shaking from Swift’s concerts isn’t caused by fans alone.

“Data from the concert may not be caused by the fans — it may be the sound system, so not really a fair comparison,” explains Caplan-Auerbach.

“What I love is to be able to share that this is science,” she adds. “It doesn’t have to happen in a lab with a white coat. Everyday observations and experiences are science.”

Swift’s Eras Tour continues with six shows in Los Angeles in August to round out the US leg before heading off internationally, beginning with Mexico City on August 24.