WILDVILLE – FEBRUARY 2017

Animals and How They Prewarn Us of Extreme Weather

Without things like satellites and radar forecasting natural disasters is difficult at best. Earthquakes and tsunamis seem to come out of nowhere, catching people unaware. It is different for animals, though. There are many stories of animals sensing bad weather and other disasters before humans do. For example, elephants in Indonesia are known to move to higher ground before an earthquake and the tsunami that comes after the earthquake.

It’s not just animals on land that seem to know that danger is coming. e tags on sharks that record where they swim have shown that they will dive into deeper water to avoid dangerous hurricanes and storms. These animals are so accurate that some people claim that animals have a sixth sense, but scientists have a different explanation.

  • Animals don’t have an extra sense that humans don’t, but they do have more sensitive hearing.
  • Animals can detect infrasound. Infrasound is sound at a frequency below what
    humans can hear.
  • Humans can hear between 20 Hertz and 20,000 Kilohertz.
  • Things like earthquakes, tsunamis, storms and meteors can produce infrasound that animals pick up before humans.
  • Scientists think that animals hear the infrasound and then use that information to protect themselves — like the elephants that head to higher ground.
  • Sometimes animals may hear these sounds and act strangely, but not know what is happening.
  • It’s a little different for animals in the water, but they can sense changes that predict bad weather, too. They can feel the pressure change in the water.

Trying to understand animal behavior is complicated and it takes years of careful research. The family dog acting a little strange doesn’t mean that an earthquake is coming. However, animals can tell us important information. Their senses are different than ours and they can detect little changes that humans might miss. These behaviors are still not completely understood, but many scientists hope that watching animals can help humans predict when danger is coming.

For more information, visit the following sites:
Science ABC
PBS.org
Mental Floss

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