CenturyLink sensors can predict next big play, if not next big shake

earthquake faults near CenturlyLink Field
The two horizontal blue dotted lines show earthquake faults near CenturyLink Field (Qwest Field on this older map). Image: DNR

Want to be the first to know how the Seattle Seahawks are faring in their NFC conference championship game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday? The ground below can let you know.

Seismologists with the University of Washington will again be monitoring seismic activity beneath CenturyLink Field in Seattle to see if the noise and shaking in the world’s (okay, second) loudest stadium can set off an actual earthquake.

An actual fan-caused quake is not likely, but the seismometers placed under and around the “Clink” do return readings to the UW crew three seconds after fans in the stadium react – a head start over the 10-second delay of network broadcasts.

Fan reaction to strong safety Kam Chancellor’s interception return touchdown in last weekend’s playoff win over the Carolina Panthers was surpassed in seismic activity only by Marshawn Lynch’s “Beast-Quake” run in the 2011 playoffs.

But it still wasn’t enough to set off an actual earthquake, which is good news given the number of faults that lie beneath the stadium.

Sitting off the continental margin where the North American and the Juan de Fuca tectonic plates form as the Cascadia subduction zone, Washington state is home to numerous earthquake fault zones.

The Seattle fault runs directly beneath the city, and the Southern Whidbey Island and Tacoma faults are nearby.

DNR geologists map fault zones around Washington so those hazards can be identified, if not predicted.

Small earthquakes, like those infamous Hawk-quakes, often stand as precursors to earthquakes, as do water levels in wells, radon and helium in ground water, changes in natural electromagnetic radiation, and animal behavior.

And, as much as scientists have studied these precursors for potential use in predicting earthquakes, they have never turned out to be consistent predictors. That makes it even more important that DNR geologists study fault lines and other geologic formations for emergency planning.

You can keep an eye on the ground under CenturyLink with the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network. Their seismic sensors may not be able to predict earthquakes just yet, but they can help you predict the ‘hawks next big play.

View maps of known earthquake faults and other known hazards in Washington State and their potential impacts (such as a 7.2 magnitude earthquake on the Seattle Fault) using the maps on the Washington State Interactive Geologic Portal.

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