Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

The empty Via Simon Bolivar or Transistmica Highway, in Panama City, on May 31, 2020, the last day of total lockdown. Photo: Luis Acosta/AFP via Getty Images

During lockdowns and other measures to control the spread of the novel coronavirus there was as much as a 50% drop globally in the seismic vibrations humans normally generate, according to new research.

Why it matters: Human seismic noise can drown out signals from earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other geological hazards and natural sources. The "quiet period" of 2020 may help to improve warning systems by offering an opportunity to separate natural sounds from those generated by human activity.

Driving, drilling, walking, flying and other human activities vibrate the Earth's surface, creating seismic noise.

What they found: Using data from 268 seismic stations in 117 countries, researchers measured the effects of lockdowns on high-Frequency (4–14 Hz) Seismic Ambient Noise (hiFSAN), which corresponds to vibrations typically generated by human activities.

  • They observed the effects of lockdowns at 185 stations and found a "near-global reduction in noise, commencing in China in late Jan 2020, then followed by Europe and the rest of the world" from March to April 2020.
  • The noise level reduction lasted longer and was at times quieter than the Christmas to New Years period, Thomas Lecocq, a seismologist at the Royal Observatory of Belgium, and his colleagues from around the world report Thursday in the journal Science.
  • The drops were more pronounced in more-populated areas (New York and Sri Lanka), but were observed in less-populated regions (for example, Germany's Black Forest) as well.

The big picture: "This is the first time to our knowledge that this kind of effect is visible on such a widespread area — the whole globe — and for such a long time period," says Lecocq.

Go deeper

DOJ watchdog to probe whether officials sought to alter election results

Former President Donald Trump and former First Lady Melania Trump exit Air Force One in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Jan. 20. Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

The Justice Department's inspector general will investigate whether any current or former DOJ officials "engaged in an improper attempt to have DOJ seek to alter the outcome" of the 2020 election, the agency announced Monday.

Driving the news: The investigation comes in the wake of a New York Times report that alleged that Jeffrey Clark, the head of DOJ's civil division, had plotted with President Trump to oust acting Attorney General Jeffery Rosen in a scheme to overturn the election results in Georgia.

1 hour ago - Podcasts

Google's chief health officer Karen DeSalvo on vaccinating America

Google on Monday became the latest Big Tech company to get involved with COVID-19 vaccinations. Not just by doing things like incorporating vaccination sites into its maps, but by helping to turn some of its offices and parking lots into vaccination sites.

Axios Re:Cap goes deeper into what Google is doing, and why now, with Dr. Karen DeSalvo, Google's chief health officer who previously worked at HHS and as health commissioner for New Orleans.

Biden signs order overturning Trump's transgender military ban

Photo: Tom Brenner/Getty Images

President Biden signed an executive order on Monday overturning the Trump administration's ban on transgender Americans serving in the military.

Why it matters: The ban, which allowed the military to bar openly transgender recruits and discharge people for not living as their sex assigned at birth, affected up to 15,000 service members, according to tallies from the National Center for Transgender Equality and Transgender American Veterans Association.