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What’s A Better Predictor: A Seismograph Lab or Your Pet? March 21, 2011

Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Who can predict natural disasters?

I’ve always felt wowed to live in a city where seismograph data is collected 24/7. It’s exciting yet humbling to know that in the blink of an eye we are at the mercy of Mother Nature. And that in this city, the data must be assessed every minute of every day for the safety of our communities.

What I’ve noticed from seismograph labs is that they are able to identify the magnitude after an event but unable to predict it with enough warning to be meaningful to people. Why, with all our technological advancements did the Japanese have only a few minutes warning prior to the catastrophic events last week? For what reason do we tout and expend for these advanced scientific labs? Perhaps they are primarily research-focused and are not just yet able to predict mass shifting of continents and destruction of thousands of lives. The events are too spontaneous to provide any type of valuable warning, only general predictions that rarely give higher than a 50/50 chance of an occurrance within the next 30 years.

We’ve all heard stories of animals’ acute disposition and sensitivity to energy in the air prior to natural disasters and human illness events, such as seizures. The “job dogs” are highly trained to sense events in people and places and provide some type of warning. But humans have looked to animals for thousands of years for their keen susceptibility to detect differences in low-frequency energy.

Historians in Helice, Greece in 373 B.C. recorded that rats, snakes and weasels hurriedly left the city in droves days prior a massive earthquake.

For countries with 80% of residences containing livestock, such as China, animals are an important predictor for advance notice of earthly phenomena. In 1975, odd animal behavior prompted Chinese officials to order the evacuation of Haicheng, population of 1 million. This behavior included bees evacuating their hives in a panic, spontaneous cattle and horse stampedes, caged birds becoming agitated and restless, and snakes leaving their hibernation areas underground, just to then freeze in the snow. Several days later a 7.3-magnitude earthquake occurred, and about 150,000 citizens’ lives were saved. The China Seismological Bureau has used this type of natural activity to accurately predict 20 earthquakes in the last 20 years, but this represents only a handful of earthquakes experienced there.

The “coincidence” of lost pet ads in the San Francisco Chronicle the week prior to the 1906 quakes was astronomical.

Three thousand people died during the 2004 Thailand tsunami, but not one animal. The animals ran for high ground, some elephants even carried people into the hills.

The US Geological Survey began studying animal behavior relevant to these phenomena during the 1970’s, but these short-lived experiments were abandoned.

Rupert Sheldrake, biologist and author, believes comparable patterns of animal behavior prior to earthquakes have been reported independently by people all over the world. “I cannot believe that they could all have made up such similar stories or that they all suffered from tricks of memory.” According to National Geographic News, Sheldrake has proposed a special hotline or Web site where people could call or email observed odd behavior in their animals. A computer would analyze the incoming messages to determine origination data. “A sudden surge of calls or e-mails from a particular region might indicate that a quake was imminent. Such a project would capture the imagination of millions of people, encourage large-scale public participation and research—and would be fun,” he said. “What is holding this research back is not money but dogmatism and narrow-mindedness.”


1. Carol Apple - April 13, 2011

You have answered well the question in your title: at least in the case of earthquakes, animals behavior is far more useful to humans who need time to evacuate. Really fascinating information about animals!

In my part of the world, hurricanes are the most frequent natural threat and at least we get plenty of warning. But I will definitely be observing my dogs’ behavior more carefully. Lately it seems there have been earthquakes in places that have never been known to have earthquakes, such as a recent 2.3 one in Pulaski, a small Virginia mountain town where my sister lives.

2. acroanmph - April 13, 2011

That is interesting, Carol. If we paid more attention to the natural order of things, perhaps we’d be better off. Thanks for your comment!

3. Tips for Seeing Your Pet Through the 4th. « Amy Croan MPH - July 3, 2012

[…] an eye out. Animals have a keen sense of events to come. The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the amazing phenomenon of an exponential […]

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