“I shake it off, I shake it off,” Taylor Swift sang. And boy did her fans deliver.
A Taylor Swift concert in downtown Seattle last weekend shook the ground so hard, it registered signals on a nearby seismometer roughly equivalent to a magnitude 2.3 earthquake, seismologists said.
“It’s certainly the biggest concert we’ve had in a while,” said Mouse Reusch, a seismologist at the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, which monitors earthquake activity in the Pacific Northwest. “We’re talking about 70,000 people and all the music and paraphernalia associated with the concert.”
The so-called “Swift Quake” recorded a maximum ground acceleration of roughly 0.011 meters per second squared, said Jackie Caplan-Auerbach, a seismologist at Western Washington University.
Seismologists use acceleration to measure ground vibrations, which are then converted to the more conventional Richter scale, the common measurement for earthquakes.
Seismometers can pick up ground vibrations of all types — including from cars and stampeding cattle — but the magnitude of the “Swift Quake” has drawn comparisons to the pro football “Beast Quake” of 2011. That seismic activity was triggered when Seattle Seahawks fans roared in celebration following a last-minute touchdown by Marshawn Lynch, the running back whose nickname is “Beast Mode.”
Reusch of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network said that the activity at the time was close to a magnitude 2.0 earthquake. The “Swift Quake” was recorded by the same seismic station, located just outside Lumen Field.
The readings occurred throughout both of Taylor Swift’s concerts on the nights of July 22 and 23 and was sustained throughout. The shaking of the ground was more than “twice as hard” as at the 2011 Seahawks game, Caplan-Auerbach said. While this was 0.3 magnitude greater than in 2011, that’s a twofold difference under the Richter scale, which is logarithmic.
The likely cause was a combination of the music from the concert’s sound system and Taylor Swift’s fans — sometimes known as Swifties — dancing in sync with it, seismologists said.
The pop megastar is currently four months into her Eras Tour, a sold-out 52-date national tour that has drawn immense crowds of Swifties to hear her perform songs spanning her 10-album career.
Her opening Arizona show in March drew about 70,000 fans. Ticket prices for her show in Santa Clara on Friday were selling for up to $20,000 on Vivid Seats, a secondhand ticket exchange.
The two back-to-back concerts in Seattle logged a near-identical pattern on the seismometer, Reusch said, which suggested the sets were nearly identical as well.
“That was surprising to me, that we’re able to see something so coherent,” she said. “One was offset by about 26 minutes because it was late.”
The shaking at both shows reached a maximum peak twice, first around 7:30 p.m., and the second around 9:30 p.m., according to data shared with The Times.
It was not immediately clear which Taylor Swift songs caused the peaks. Besides “Shake It Off,” the set list included “Love Story,” “Bad Blood,” and “Anti-Hero,” all songs guaranteed to get Swifties on their feet.
While the concerts shook the ground exceptionally hard, Caplan-Auerback said, it is important to understand that seismometers pick up signals from “anything that shakes the ground,” including cars, trains and even wind.
Nor are Taylor Swift’s earthshaking abilities unique to the music world.
The seismometer also recorded signals when The Weeknd played at Lumen Field on Aug. 25, 2022, Caplan-Auerback said, though they were not as strong.
Beyoncé will be playing there on Sept. 14, she said. “I’ll be looking at that for sure.”
As for Reusch, she was encouraged by the public attention.
“Maybe there’s some young Swifties out there that will some day become seismologists or earth scientists,” she said. “That would be a real happy ending.”