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WWU seismologist captures 'Swift-quake,' story goes global

A photo of Taylor Swift performing on stage for her "reputation" era. Photo by Kari Mar, '98, who attended the concert with her niece, an incoming WWU freshman.

WWU Geology professor's readings show Taylor Swift's Seattle concerts caused 2.3 magnitude seismic activity at Lumen Field

"Okay, Swifties, here's a teaser of what I've been looking at all day," WWU Geology professor, Jackie Caplan-Auerbach, wrote in a blog post that showed two seismograms recorded at a seismometer near Lumen Field where Taylor Swift's concerts were held last week in Seattle. 

As she worked the data with the help of two young citizen scientists (teenagers with whom Caplan-Auerbach is familiar) who attended Swift's shows in Seattle, it became clear: the concerts caused seismic activity that dwarfed that of the infamous 2011 'Beast Quake' created by the crowd when Seattle Seahawk Marshawn Lynch scored the winning touchdown in the Wild Card playoff game against the New Orleans Saints.

Caplan-Auerbach overlapped seismograms to show consistency with the Swift concerts' set lists which were repeated over the two nights (shown at the bottom of the above image). She compared the seismic activity between the 2011 Seahawks 'Beast Quake' (shown in the upper half of the above image) and the July 2023 'Swift Quake.'

Seattle's NBC affiliate, KING 5 TV was first to run with the story and coined the term, 'Swift Quake.' The rest of the world quickly took notice.

To date, more than 3,000 publications with a combined potential reach of 37.4 billion have covered the 'Swift Quake' (Cision, 2023).

Read more about the global coverage in Western Today



In The News

Earthquake research center to prep PNW for impending disaster

Western Washington University geophysics assistant professor Emily Roland, left, and geology professor Colin Amos posing in front of Bellingham Bay

Major earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest are fairly uncommon, yet a significant threat looms: “The Big One” is an anticipated earthquake of magnitude 8 or higher.  

And it could happen any day.  

This projected earthquake — which would occur along the Cascadia Subduction Zone spanning from southern British Columbia to northern California — prompted the formation of the Cascadia Region Earthquake Science Center (CRESCENT), and $15 million in funding recently approved by the National Science Foundation. 

Two Western Washington University geologists, Emily Roland and Colin Amos, will support CRESCENT’s mission to help the Pacific Northwest prepare for earthquakes by studying the Cascadia Subduction Zone. 

“It's very possible that we could have a magnitude 8 or 9 earthquake tomorrow, or in 10 years, or in three weeks from now,” said Roland, an assistant professor of geophysics at Western. “And so it's an important goal, I think, for us to keep pursuing a better understanding of that.” 

Read more about their research on Cascadia Daily

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