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Wednesday, February 28, 2024
Feb. 28, 2024

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Taylor Swift sang ‘Shake It Off’ in Seattle — and a seismometer felt it

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SEATTLE — Taylor Swift closed out her record-breaking concert at Seattle’s Lumen Field last weekend with her twinkly pop hit “Karma.” Little did she know, when she delivered the bridge “Karma is the thunder, rattling the ground,” the ground was literally shaking.

In fact, it shook in a seismic sense for the entirety of her marathon, three-and-a-half-hour show, said Western Washington University geology professor Jackie Caplan-Auerbach.

This week, Caplan-Auerbach is among a few local seismologists combing through the data taken at a seismometer conveniently located right next to Lumen Field.

Swift performed back-to-back, sold-out shows in Seattle to over 144,000 total fans. The Eras Tour, which encompasses her varied, 17-year discography, makes Swift the first artist to play consecutive nights at the venue, and she broke Lumen Field’s attendance record, according to her team.

Swift edged out another Lumen record: the seismic activity of the 2011 Beast Quake when Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch scored a touchdown and the crowd went wild.

Caplan-Auerbach said she compared Swift’s concerts to the Beast Quake when prompted by a person in a Facebook group. The shaking at Swift’s concerts was about twice as strong at its max. Translated into magnitudes, if the Beast Quake was a magnitude 2, Swift was a 2.3, she said.

However, it’s possible concerts in general are seismically louder, she said. While Caplan-Auerbach is still analyzing the data, The Weeknd’s concert last August was also slightly louder than the Beast Quake, though not as loud as “Seismic Swift.”

Looking at the data from the seismometer, Caplan-Auerbach said she could immediately see the same-shaped set of waves on Saturday and Sunday, a clear indication that she was seeing Swift’s set list. The Sunday data even showed a 26-minute delay, which some fans have speculated was due to technical issues.

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Mouse Reusch, a seismologist at the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, saidstaffers are having fun combing through the data. One student turned the waves into a sonogram and was able to identify what songs Swift was singing at the time the ground shook by looking at the beats per minute. The songs identified were “Blank Space” and, fittingly, “Shake It Off.”

Whereas the seismogram from the Beast Quake clearly measured the ground shaking from an enthusiastic fan base over a 60-second period, seismologists say concerts are a little trickier. It’s not clear what exactly is causing the seismic activity: waves felt through the ground generated by a bass, subwoofers or people jumping up and down to a beat.

Seismometers are tuned to measure ground shaking at low frequencies and can capture vibrations from passing Sound Transit trains and cars, and even nearby explosions, said Caplan-Auerbach. Most of the frequencies the seismometer records are below the range of human hearing, she said.

Nevertheless, the seismic concert research is just beginning in Seattle.

Reusch said the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network will compare data from the Swift concerts to February’s Bruce Springsteen concert at Climate Pledge Arena, which also has a seismometer nearby at Seattle Center. While Springsteen fans are known to be “pretty loud,” it may be a tougher competition since the arena is sealed off and significantly smaller than Lumen, she said.

A self-proclaimed Swift “rookie,” Caplan-Auerbach said she is looking for help putting together a second-by-second set list of Swift’s tour.

“How do we compare, say, a really danceable song with maybe a ballad? Do we see a difference in energy?” she said.

(Swifties with videos and timestamps of the tour can upload them to a Google Drive or reach Caplan-Auerbach by email at caplanj@wwu.edu.)

There are more opportunities to take measurements. In September, Beyoncé will perform at Lumen Field, presenting a “terrific opportunity” to test theories, Caplan-Auerbach said.

“Science can happen in two ways,” she said. “Sometimes you’re handed data by surprise, like this one … but other times you can say, ‘Hey, we know this is going to happen, what data do we want?’”

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