Bengaluru, April 28: Forget the Siesmograph, it can misguide. Nature has provided us with tools that we ignore or take casually when it comes to something as serious as a natural calamity. Observe animals and birds around you and you could sense a change in their behavioural pattern.
A case in point are the Pandas of Wolong National Nature Reserve in China, which was close to the epicenter of the massive earthquake that shook central China on May 12, 2008.
If witnesses are to be believed, Pandas were lazily nibbling into bamboo shoots when they suddenly started walking restlessly in their pens. [Read: Pandas sensed China quake coming?]
Scientists have proved that animals and birds have olfactory cells that help them predict disasters much earlier than any other instrument, sometimes the span could be even 48 hours earlier to the time of approach.
The Golden-Winged Warblers, for instance can evacuate 24 hours before the disaster before the storm hits.
Dogs and cats have that ability too. A study by Hiroyuki Yamauchi of National Tsing Hua University, after the disastrous 2011 earthquake scaling up to 9 in the richter scale, identified that cats behaved abnormally six days prior to an earthquake.
Felines are reported to be trembling, being restless and escaping or are agitated. Researchers believe that cats may sense quakes as they have a wider range of hearing than humans.
They are also capable to detect changes in atmospheric pressure, ground deformation and gravity. Similarly, dogs howl and bark abnormally.
Cows too have shown changes in their anatomy with lowered milk production, six days before the earthquake.
Honeybees, on the other hand cannot be seen anywhere before it rains. Sensing moisture changes, they take shelter in their beehives. When Ladybugs stay in clusters, you would know that extreme heat will follow.
Sharks, on the other hand chase storms and their movement towards fast changing temperature can help predict impending storms.
Silvertip grizzly bears also boast of a very strong olfactory prowess and other sensory skills can sense natural disasters way ahead of time.
The science behind the Nature forecastors
During the 2004 Tsunami, there was a casualty of 230,000 across 14 coastal countries, but strangely there were less animal casualties. Eyewitnesses and mahouths observed that elephants behaved erratically, trumpeted restlessly and had a tendency to run to the highlands.
Scientists believe that elephants had picked up infrasound waves generated by the tremor. These vibrations are lower than 20 Hz, which is way below human determination of 27.5 Hz.
These soundwaves are the forecasters of impending tragedies like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, avalanches, lightning, meteors, and iceberg calving.
Rayleigh waves, a type of surface wave that travels along solid ground, way before a volcanic explosion or an earthquake, are also detected by most animals and birds. Again a very low intensity wave, it goes undetectable by the human sensory organs.
Atmospheric gas and electromagnetic fields are something that ants capture. Just before an earthquake, they can be seen remaining outside their holes during night, even if it is at the risk of their predators.