Team records ground shaking at Taylor Swift concerts

UCL team
UCL team
UCL geophysicists installed nine seismometers around Wembley Park ahead of Taylor Swift’s first Eras concerts in London and found that the opening night performance of ’Love Story’ produced the strongest ground tremors.

The instruments recorded ground seismic waves generated by fans dancing within and outside Wembley Stadium over three nights, from 21st to 23rd June.

The opening night recorded the greatest levels of ground motion of the three dates with Earth movement up to a maximum of 0.03 mm (the size of a very fine hair). ’Love Story’ produced the strongest ground shaking, equivalent to an earthquake of magnitude around 0.8, followed closely by ’Shake It Off’.

The team, who were invited to install the seismometers by Wembley Park, were led by geophysicists Professor Ana Ferreira and Dr Stephen Hicks (both UCL Earth Sciences), with instruments shared by UK-based manufacturer Güralp Systems Ltd and University of Oxford’s Dr Paula Koelemeijer.

Professor Ferreira and her team detect and study a wide range of phenomena using seismic data. In a previous project, the team placed 50 seismometers on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, detecting whale songs as well as the 2022 Tonga earthquake on the other side of the planet.

Professor Ferreira said: "Taylor Swift fans were clearly having the time of their lives in Wembley Park during Taylor’s first London concerts.

"With our instruments we were able to ’listen’ to the Earth’s heartbeat which was certainly beating fast during songs such as ’Love Story’ which produced energy in the ground equivalent to an earthquake of magnitude around 0.8.

"This is a great testimony of how even a so-called small magnitude event is actually ’big’, being generated by such a huge and enthusiastic dancing crowd." 

Dr Stephen Hicks said: "Amazingly, each of Taylor’s concerts over the three consecutive days at Wembley produce near-identical seismic signals, which is quite a unique phenomenon in nature. This gives us quite a novel opportunity to probe the subsurface environment beneath urban areas and to compare between different cities around the world where Taylor has performed." 

Paul Burke, a PhD candidate in palaeontology at UCL Earth Sciences, said: "Being a Swiftie since I was 13, I never thought my job as a researcher at UCL and Taylor Swift would collide together. Taylor brings so much joy to so many people and there’s a feeling you get from going to her concert that you cannot replicate.

"We got to use science to measure seismic activity during her concerts at Wembley, showing the fun applications science has and the importance of it.

"Hopefully this experiment leads to the public being more aware of all the great science we do at UCL and all the fun things we can do with it."

The Weembley concerts were attended by over 90,000 people each night in the stadium plus many more fans joining outside.

An earlier project led by Professor Ferreira, called UPFLOW, involved placing seismometers on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. These seismic recordings were used to build images of the Earth’s interior down to ~2,800 km depth, in a similar way to how medical teams build CAT scans of the human body. The aim of the project was to better understand massive "upwellings" of material pushing up from Earth’s mantle, which are poorly understood and ultimately cause volcanic eruptions and can lead to earthquakes. 

    Mark Greaves

    m.greaves [at]

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