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UW scientists to observe seismic activity from Seahawks fans during divisional playoff vs Saints

Posted Jan 10, 2014

Two strong-motion seismometers have been installed at CenturyLink Field to monitor shaking from "earthquakes" expected during Seattle's divisional playoff against the New Orleans Saints.

Saturday's forecast at CenturyLink Field calls for cloudy skies, a kickoff temperature of 47 degrees, 23 mile-per-hour winds to the south, a 70 percent chance of rain, and the anticipation of an earthquake or two.

In preparation for tomorrow's NFC divisional playoff between the Seahawks and New Orleans Saints, seismologists from the University of Washington have installed two strong-motion seismometers at CenturyLink Field to enhance an existing station in recording "earthquakes" expected from crowd noise generated by Seattle's 12th Man.

The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network is behind the effort and has set up a website to track the activity in near-real time. Seismologists are planning to highlight any interesting signals received on Twitter and Facebook during the game.

The last two times the Seahawks and Saints have squared off, seismic activity has been recorded. The best example came during the wild-card round of the playoffs in January 2011, when running back Marshawn Lynch ripped off his 67-yard "Beast Quake" touchdown run that sent shock waves around the Pacific Northwest. Then, just last month with the Saints visiting on Monday Night Football in Week 13, the 12th Man not only set the Guinness World Record for crowd noise but set off the existing seismometer in the process, after defensive end Cliff Avril sacked and forced a fumble of Saints quarterback Drew Brees that defensive end Michael Bennett returned for a first-quarter score.

The experiment provides a test of the equipment used to monitor aftershocks following a traditional (i.e. not-12th-Man generated) earthquake and UW scientists are hoping to gain a better understanding of how the stadium responds to the fanatic activity.

Hopefully, if all goes well, the Seahawks give the 12s a thing or two to cheer about tomorrow, and the off-the-wall experiment is a rousing success.

Breaking Down The "Beast Quake"

Seismic waves created during the 2011 "Beast Quake" traveled through the soft soils of the neighborhood near CenturyLink Field. John Vidale, a UW professor of Earth and space sciences, noticed the unique signal from the strong-motion station near the stadium and plotted a seismogram, adding notations on when specific events occurred within the stadium (via University of Washington)