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Geoscience and football meet at Rice-Eccles Stadium

U seismologists shared seismic data from the Utah-Florida game in real time on Twitter.

As its football program has grown in stature since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, the University of Utah has also greatly expanded the reach of its research, including into football fandom itself.

Seismic readings from the the first quarter of the Utah-Florida game, Aug. 31. Credit: U of U Seismograph Stations

U geoscientists are now measuring the actual seismic impact of Big Time college football on the Salt Lake City campus and live tweeting the measurements during games, starting with Thursday’s Florida-Utah matchup.

Ahead of the Utes’ season opener, seismologist and Utah season ticket holder Jamie Farrell installed a seismometer in the Rice-Eccles Stadium to measure and record Earth shaking associated with fans’ response to on-field action during the Utes’ home games.

U seismologist Jamie Farrell, left, installs a seismometer at Rice Eccles Stadium on Aug. 30, the day before Utah’s season-opening football game against rival Florida. Credit: Brian Maffly

“We’re going to try to convert the amount of energy that gets released either over an entire game or if there’s a big event, where it shakes a lot, and try to convert that into equivalent magnitude, how much energy is put into the ground,” Farrell said. “But if not, we can compare different things, like when the team ran into the stadium, when we scored our first touchdown or this was a third-down stomp.”

Farrell is an associate research professor in the Department of Geology and Geophysics, where he helps oversee the U of U Seismograph Stations, or UUSS. He is an expert in the use of seismic waves to characterize the Earth’s crust, with a particular focus on the volcanism under Yellowstone National Park.

Using the hashtag #UteQuake, Farrell’s associates intend to live-tweet seismic data while the games are underway, from @UUSSquake, the stations’ official account on X, the platform formerly called Twitter.

“The @UUtah and @Utah_Football fans are rocking the stadium today. Check the signals of the team running out of the tunnel at our station in the stadium,” UUSS tweeted as Thursday’s game opened.

The goal of the experiment is to contribute to Game Day excitement, but also to raise awareness of the Seismograph Stations’ vital public service tracking earthquake activity around Utah.

On the day before the Florida game, Farrell installed a type of seismometer known as an accelerograph in a ground-level utility room, bolting it to the concrete floor.

“It’s measuring the acceleration of the ground,” Farrell said. “Every time something happens in the stadium, the stadium shakes, that movement will be transferred from the stadium down into the ground. We record it on this, we will report some interesting things, hopefully some good things will happen during the games during the season and we have some pretty cool results of what we find here.”

There it will stay for the entire football season, recording ground-shaking data from the Utes’ seven home games. This devise measures minute vibrations along three axes: east-west; north-south; and up-down.

The plan is to share that data in real time during every home game via social media and possibly for display on the stadium’s screen.


The graphic to the left presents five minutes of seismic data from the second quarter of the Florida-Utah game, when the Ute defense (with an assist from the MUSS) repeatedly thwarted a promising Florida drive near the end zone. Note the brief but intense spike in activity when safety Cole Bishop knocked the ball from Gators quarterback Graham Mertz on a carry just short of the first-down marker. The graphic was produced and posted on Twitter during the game by Santiago Rabade, a U graduate student in the Department of Geology and Geophysics.