On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Countries around the world rushed to declare various states of emergencies. Canada was no different. By 22 March 2020, all Canadian provinces and territories had enforced some forms of lockdowns, and the Canada-US border was shut.
Lockdowns are difficult decisions to make – politically and economically. Closing borders, grounding road, rail and air transport, closing schools, offices, entertainment and sports venues, and non-essential services come at a huge cost to individuals, businesses and society. But restricting human movements is essential to check the spread of the pandemic and ensure our health systems do not collapse.
Measuring Reduction in Human Movements During the COVID-19 Lockdown Using Home-Built Instrument
I conceived “Monitor My Lockdown” in June 2020 when my school doors closed due to the COVID-19 lockdown. I wanted to measure the impact of the lockdowns in reducing movements of people. As a first step, I constructed an instrument with sensors and camera, and installed it in front of my home in downtown Toronto. For four weeks, it measured changes in street sound levels, city night lights, pollution levels, and traffic on the road and recorded a 30%-40% drop in all them – a clear indicator that human activities were affected by the lockdown. But I was not satisfied.
I wanted to find out if there was a reduction in human movements across Canada because of the COVID-19 lockdown. As I could not install my instrument all over Canada, I had to think of another way.
Measuring Reduction in Human Movements During the COVID-19 Lockdown Using Seismic Data
I knew the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) operated a Canada-wide network of seismic stations to record ground motion because of the earthquakes. The data was collected continuously and available online for many of these stations. Seismographs are very sensitive instruments. This is the reason that seismic stations are purposefully built outside the cities so that they do not record city-related noises such as construction, transportation and other cultural noises. But in many cases, I could locate seismic stations close to major Canadian cities.
So I moved from ground-level measurements of human movements to subsurface measurements. I wrote a custom algorithm to gather, analyze and visualize 100 billion lines of seismic data from 9 seismic stations (located nearby major cities) across Canada. The goal was to measure seismic vibrations prior to the first lockdown (March 2020 – May 2020) and compare them to seismic vibrations during and after the lockdown for these 9 cities in 6 provinces: Calgary, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec City, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria and Whitehorse. I successfully measured a drop in seismic vibrations for all these cities, ranging between 12% and 55%.
See detailed results: the seismic silences of Canadian cities during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Monitor My Lockdown Web App: For COVID-19 pandemic planning
The results of my project are presented as a Web App so that they can be used for COVID-19 pandemic management.
- Policymakers and media can use the App to monitor effectiveness of lockdowns in different Canadian cities and compare them to different periods.
- Healthcare workers can use the App to predict for spikes in COVID-19 cases due to increase in human movements. They can then make arrangements for additional personal protection equipment (PPEs) and testing kits.
- Researchers can use the App to extract seismic vibrations over different frequencies.
View the Web App: http://www.MonitorMyLockdown.com
Monitor My Lockdown Online Tutorial: from Canada to the World
The pandemic does not respect national boundaries. Every country is grappling with how to enforce lockdowns to manage the pandemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) is warning of deadlier pandemics in the future. We need to be prepared.
I created an online tutorial so that users anywhere can analyze seismic data for their cities and measure the impacts of lockdown. The tutorial takes an hour to complete and is run using Jupyter Notebook.
Closures of school doors meant opening new windows to education. One such opportunity was participating in the Software Underground Transform 2020 where I got introduced to the fascinating world of seismology. Gratitude to Matt Hall and his team for welcoming me to their event. I was inspired by the work of Thomas Lecocq, Seismologist, Royal Observatory of Belgium on global quieting of high-frequency seismic noises during COVID-19 lockdown. I thank the session chairs of the American Geophysical Union for allowing me to give an oral presentation of my work at their Fall 2020 meeting and the constructive feedback I received.
Artash Nath, Founder, MonitorMyLockdown.com
Hello, Bonjour. I am a Grade 9 Student from Toronto, Canada. I work on space, robotics, machine learning, and big data projects. I love to cook, strum the guitar, and play water polo.