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Taylor Swift fans set off earthquake monitors during Scotland concert

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Sophie Butcher remembers hearing thousands of fans erupt in cheers as Taylor Swift stomped on to the stage to perform “… Ready for It?” in Scotland last week. Throughout Swift’s four-minute performance Friday, fans danced, jumped, swayed back and forth, and clapped, Butcher said.

Butcher said the performance was one of the most exciting from the Eras Tour concert. But she didn’t learn just how rowdy it was until she returned to her job studying earthquakes on Monday.

Seismologists at the British Geological Survey (BGS), where Butcher works, picked up earthquake readings during Swift’s concerts Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital. Butcher investigated further, using videos from the concerts to find which songs produced the most seismic activity as a result of dancing, clapping and stomping.

The BGS announced Thursday that fans created up to 23.4 nanometers of movement at Swift’s concerts. That’s significantly more than other popular artists — Harry Styles, Beyoncé and Bruce Springsteen — produced when they recently performed in Scotland, Butcher said.

Earthquake readings were strongest when Swift performed two songs in particular. As she sang and danced to “… Ready for It?,” the crowd transmitted about 80 kilowatts of power, which is equivalent to the power that roughly 6,000 car batteries produce, the BGS said. During “Cruel Summer,” fans were “jumping and almost bobbing and swaying,” Butcher said as she tried to replicate the movements on a video call Thursday.

At Swift’s Eras Tour shows, fans cheer for an extended amount of time after she performs “Champagne Problems.” When spectators cheered in Edinburgh for about four minutes last weekend, the clapping and jumping also created seismic activity. The earthquake readings were picked up nearly four miles from Murrayfield Stadium, the BGS said.

The seismic activity from Swift’s concerts wasn’t strong enough for most people to feel, the BGS said. Seismologist James Hammond told The Washington Post in July that people creating vibrations from parties is “quite common.”

It was a strong start to Swift’s summer tour through Europe, which features a new set list and will continue in Liverpool, England, this week. But Swift’s concerts had already created earthquake readings when she toured the United States.

Seismologists said Swift’s concert in Seattle in July created seismic activity equivalent to a 2.3-magnitude earthquake. Her concert in Los Angeles the following month also produced earthquake-like tremors. Butcher said the BGS didn’t estimate an earthquake magnitude from Swift’s Scotland concerts.

Butcher, 29, said she wasn’t thinking about seismic activity when she attended Swift’s concerts at Murrayfield Stadium on Friday and Saturday as a fan. Nearly 73,000 spectators attended the concert each night, breaking the record for the largest crowd at a stadium concert in Scotland three times, stadium spokeswoman Sarah Cruickshank said in an email to The Post.

Butcher, a volcanologist, said she was bummed to return to work Monday until seismologists reviewed data from the weekend and found seismic activity during Swift’s concerts.

Butcher said the BGS has seismometers posted underground across Scotland to monitor earthquakes. The devices also pick up seismic activity from concerts and sporting events sometimes, Butcher said.

When Styles performed at Murrayfield Stadium in May last year, Butcher said the seismometers recorded about 15 nanometers of movement. All three of Swift’s concerts performed well above that number, according to the BGS.

While Butcher normally studies earthquakes before and after volcanic activity, she said her bosses asked her Monday afternoon to investigate Swift’s concerts. Butcher said she used the time stamps from her videos and photos, as well as from the three friends she went to the concerts with, to match the times the seismic activity spiked.

“I just got to spend all of Monday afternoon … reliving the weekend,” Butcher said, “and also doing some science at the same time.”

Correlating the times with the songs Swift was playing was easy because the concerts followed a similar schedule, Butcher said. They started at 7:15 p.m., Swift sang “Cruel Summer” about six minutes later, and she performed “… Ready For It?” around 8:22 p.m., Butcher said.

Swift complimented fans during her Edinburgh concert Sunday.

“You are not just here to dance,” she said. “You’re not just here to sing. You are here to totally commit to the moment, to the vibe, to the night.”

As Butcher attends other concerts in Europe this summer — she’s seeing the Killers and going to Glastonbury Festival — she said she’s curious if other fan bases will produce earthquake readings. Seismometers could be the judge, Butcher said, if fans come … ready for it.

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