Earth is Pulsating Every 26 Seconds, and Nobody Knows Why

Izzy Gariel, Reporter

Seismometers are devices used for measuring the exact movements of the Earth. Using these, scientists discovered that the earth has been pulsating every 26 seconds.

These pulses are not strong enough to be felt, but they are strong enough that scientists can detect them.

Scientists have been observing these pulses for years, but have not yet discovered where they come from.

According to Discover Magazine, the pulse — or “microseism” in geologist lingo — was first documented in the early 1960’s by a researcher named Jack Oliver, then at the Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory. He’s best known for his later work that supplied some important early evidence for shifting tectonic plates.

“Seismic noise basically exists because of the sun,” Mike Ritzwoller, a seismologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder said. Ritzwoller’s team independently came across the pulse a few decades later.

The sun heats the most at the equator, which may create winds and storms, along with ocean currents and waves.

“It’s like if you were tapping on your desk. It deforms the area near your knuckle, but then it’s being transmitted across the whole table,” Ritzwoller says. “So someone sitting at the other side of the table, if they put their hand, or maybe their cheek, on the table, they can feel the vibration.”

Garret Euler, a grad student, came along and located the source of the pulse almost six years later on the Gulf of Guinea called the Bight of Bonny.

“When waves travel across the ocean, the pressure difference in the water might not have much effect on the ocean floor,” Euler said. “But when it hits the continental shelf — where the solid ground is much closer to the surface — the pressure deforms the ocean floor and causes seismic pulses that reflect the wave action.”

The pulse was first discovered nearly 60 years ago, but they still don’t know how it’s created, or what creates it.


Discover Magazine