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UW seismologists prepare for third Beast Quake at CenturyLink Field

If Marshawn Lynch pulls off another ‘Beast Quake’ in Saturday’s Seahawks’ playoff game at CenturyLink Field, University of Washington seismologists will, again, be on hand to make sure they capture it on their sensors.

As they have in past seasons, scientists from the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network will be installing a monitor on the field and two in the stands to measure ground movement, says John Vidale, Pacific Northwest Seismic Network director.

PNSN has expanded its monitoring since Lynch’s historic 67-yard run in a playoff game against the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints Jan. 8, 2011, which caused the 12s to shake the stadium enough to trigger nearby seismic equipment.

“We can only hope Marshawn delivers again. We’re using it as an opportunity to try out some new instruments and especially to try out some new software and web features,” Vidale says.

Another Lynch run during last year’s NFC Divisional playoff game against the Saints also led to a big enough fan frenzy to shake the seismic monitors as he powered his way to a 15-yard touchdown.

It might seem like a bit of a novelty, but the data gathered is valuable in helping the PNSN continue development of an early earthquake warning system, Vidale says.

“We’re trying to show people what’s happening pretty much as it happens. We need to have the services we have actually work when people are actually looking at them, and it’s hard to test when nothing’s happening. So the football game is a perfect opportunity to try things out.”

PNSN will be providing both real-time and near real-time data on its website.

“We are developing this software to provide real-time views of seismic waves when a great earthquake is starting to roil our coastal seismometers,” wrote UW professor emeritus Steve Malone in a blog post Monday. “It could also provide an instantaneous tool for observers to keep an eye on a future bothersome earthquake swarm or a volcano that is acting up. A good workout from Internet Seahawk fans will help shake out problems.”

Now they just need Marshawn to break off another big run.

“I just hope he comes through and people are excited. We need people to explode and shout and stomp,” Vidale says.

You can monitor the PNSN seismic readings here.

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