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Home > Spotlight > Rose Parade Seismic Research

2020 Rose Parade radiates rhythm underground

Southern University "Human Jukebox" Marching Band created biggest impact

By Ken Martinson, Founder

2020 Rose Parade Theme Float PASADENA, Calif. (May 7, 2020) — Marching bands always provide an energetic cadence among the floral floats in the Rose Parade, but a new study of seismic activity during the 2020 parade illustrates just how much power the marching bands deliver.

Researchers from the Caltech Seismological Laboratory in Pasadena led a project to analyze data captured by sensors on underground telecom fiber-optic cables below the parade route. The sensors detected vibrations of the earth and the flexure of the road as floats and marching bands passed above.

The findings and methodology are presented in a paper first published in Seismological Research Letters on May 6, 2020.

The raw data portrays remarkably clear patterns, with ribbons of movement indicating the parade's steady pace and vibrant peaks of activity at intervals that align perfectly with the marching bands distributed throughout the lineup. The data even shows a noticeable quiet period that aligns with a brief backup when a float had trouble making the final turn near the end of the route.

Researcher Xin Wang, postdoctoral scholar and first author of the paper, created a line chart specifically for to expand upon the published information and illustrate the marching band data even more clearly.

2020 Rose Parade Marching Band Seismic Impact
[Click image to view chart at full size]

"The figure shows the top five 'loudest' bands, based quantitatively on the amplitudes of ground shaking they produce," Wang said. "The middle panel shows the estimated speed of the bands, which is around 2.5 miles per hour. In most cases, we can clearly identify the individual bands in the Rose Parade, as the bands are well separated by the floats."

The five bands generating the largest seismic impact in the 2020 Rose Parade were:
  1. Southern University "Human Jukebox" Marching Band, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  2. Pasadena City College Tournament of Roses Honor Band, California
  3. Rancho Verde Crimson Regiment, Moreno Valley, California
  4. Dobyns-Bennett High School, Kingsport, Tennessee
  5. Los Angeles Unified School District Honor Band, California
Southern University Human Jukebox Marching Band - 2020 Tournament of Roses Parade. Photo by
Southern University "Human Jukebox" Marching Band

Measurements were recorded along a 1.6-mile stretch of Colorado Boulevard where underground fiber-optic cables overlap the parade route. The area is near the end of the 5.5-mile route between Wilson Avenue and Sierra Madre Boulevard.

Rose Parade Route Fiber-Optic Cable Overlap. Installation of distributed acoustic sensing (DAS) technology on the fiber-optic cable was completed in November 2019, making this the first year such data collection was possible. Without any significant earthquakes in the region since the installation, the 2020 Rose Parade — with well-controlled unidirectional traffic — provided a great opportunity to calibrate the system.

Seismic measurement of the Rose Parade is likely to continue, according to Zhongwen Zhan, assistant professor of geophysics at Caltech and corresponding author of the study.

"We plan to keep the seismic array operational over the next few years so we plan to do the same for future Rose Parades, hopefully with more information about the bands and even some outreach activities," Zhan said.

Authors credited on the project are Xin Wang, Ethan F. Williams, Martin Karrenbach, Miguel González Herráez, Hugo Fidalgo Martins, and Zhongwen Zhan. For more information about the California Institute of Technology Seismological Laboratory, visit

Additional related information is available from the Seismological Society of America ( and Seismological Research Letters (

Related information on 2020 Rose Parade Lineup, 2020 Rose Parade Photos

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