The 2020 coronavirus lockdown and seismic monitoring of anthropic activities in Northern Italy

Sci Rep. 2020 Jun 10;10(1):9404. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-66368-0.


In March/April 2020 the Italian government drastically reduced vehicle traffic and interrupted all non-essential industrial activities over the entire national territory. Italy thus became the first country in the world, with the exception of Hubei, to enact lockdown measures as a consequence of the COVID-19 outbreak and the need to contain it. Italy is also a seismically active area, and as such is monitored by a dense permanent network of seismic stations. We analyse continuous seismic data from many stations in northern and central Italy, and quantify the impact of the lockdown on seismic ambient noise, as a function of time and location. We find that the lockdown reduces ambient noise significantly in the 1-10 Hz frequency range; because natural sources of seismic noise are not affected by the lockdown, the seismic signature of anthropic noise can be characterised with unprecedented clarity, by simply comparing the signal recorded before and after the lockdown. Our results correlate well with independent evaluations of the impact of the lockdown (e.g., cell phone displacements), and we submit that ambient-noise seismology is a useful tool to monitor containment measures such as the coronavirus lockdowns.