Friday, September 11, 2015
Animal Earthquake Predictions
All animals instinctively respond to escape from predators and to preserve their lives. A wide variety of vertebrates already express “early warning” behaviors that we understand for other types of events, so it’s possible that a seismic-escape response could have evolved from this already-existing genetic predisposal.
Research being carried out in China has indicated that recognition of unusual animal behavior in a systematic way can lead and be used, in conjunction with other methods, as a means of predicting large and potentially destructive earthquakes.In 373 B.C., historians recorded that animals, including rats, snakes and weasels, deserted the Greek city of Helice in droves just days before a quake devastated the place.Accounts of similar animal anticipation of earthquakes have surfaced across the centuries since. Catfish moving violently, chickens that stop laying eggs and bees leaving their hive in a panic have been reported. Countless pet owners claimed to have witnessed their cats and dogs acting strangely before the ground shook—barking or whining for no apparent reason, or showing signs of nervousness and restlessness.But precisely what animals sense, if they feel anything at all, is a mystery. One theory is that wild and domestic creatures feel the Earth vibrate before humans. Other ideas suggest they detect electrical changes in the air or gas released from the Earth.
In September 2003 a medical doctor in Japan made headlines with a study that indicated erratic behavior in dogs, such as excessive barking or biting, could be used to forecast quakes.There have also been examples where authorities have forecast successfully a major earthquake, based in part on the observation of the strange antics of animals. For example, in 1975 Chinese officials ordered the evacuation of Haicheng, a city with one million people, just days before a 7.3-magnitude quake. Only a small portion of the population was hurt or killed. If the city had not been evacuated, it is estimated that the number of fatalities and injuries could have exceeded 150,000.