The Seahawks’ first “Beast Quake” took people by surprise.
The next one, which could come Saturday, will be closely monitored.
And you can help, even if you’re watching from home.
“We’re looking at this as a great learning opportunity, and the public can play a role,” said John Vidale, director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, based at the University of Washington.
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Vidale and a crew were at CenturyLink Field on Thursday to install three sensors and computers to detect and relay information about earth movement caused by stomping fans.
Vidale said he hopes the Seahawks do their part by providing fans with suitably frenzied moments in the 5:15 p.m. playoff matchup against the Carolina Panthers.
This is not idle curiosity. Vidale said what scientists learn on the project could improve the ability to spot warning signs of an impending earthquake, and share that information with the public quickly and efficiently.
A major earthquake may be preceded by seismic activity that, if detected, could give a warning of up to several minutes of the impending calamity, scientists say. A bit of history is in order:
The Seahawks’ Jan. 8, 2011, home wild-card game against the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints was a wild affair, with 77 points scored by the two teams.
The high point for Seattle fans was a fourth quarter, 67-yard run by Marshawn Lynch.
Lynch, already nicknamed “Beast Mode,” bulled his way past defender after defender until he got to the end zone, keying the Seahawks’ 41-36 victory.
The stadium erupted, shaking so hard that the vibrations were picked up a block away by a seismic sensor placed to monitor earth shifts in the vulnerable Pioneer Square area.
Lynch’s run was dubbed “Beast Quake.”
The soft earth under CenturyLink Field, Vidale said, amplifies the stadium’s shaking during games, although at a level still far below what would be detected in a natural earthquake of even moderate severity.
Sensors were placed in the stadium last season, but the more elaborate equipment set up Thursday — in utility areas where fans won’t see — represents an increased emphasis not just on gathering data, but sharing it. Watch the website pnsn.org during the game, Vidale said, to see real-time information about the stadium’s shakes.
The system might even give viewers a clue to what is about to happen next on their TV screens, Vidale said.
That’s because the seismic readings may get online within two or three seconds, while the TV signal from the stadium is on about a 10-second delay, he said.
A lot of people trying to tap the website simultaneously is just the kind of test the system needs, Vidale said.
“We want to make sure that we build something that works when a lot of people are trying to access it.”
Vidale won’t be at Saturday’s game. He’ll be watching from the University of Washington, so he can track how the seismic-reporting system is working.
But he does have a prediction about the game:
“I predict we’ll be able to come back the following week and do it again,” he said.
That would take a Seattle victory over Carolina, advancing the Seahawks into the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, Jan. 18.
Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or firstname.lastname@example.org