June 5, 2023

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Do animals feel an earthquake in advance? Science answer

in Surveillance video that went viral on social media after the earthquake that hit Turkey on February 6, it’s there A dog suddenly starts howling. He wrote from his post that the dog was in one of the earthquake-affected areas and that he would have felt a shock before everything started shaking. But how true is this? First of all, we can’t say for sure if the dog is really barking because of the earthquake. But what we care about is deepening it with a contribution boss pocketpopAndrea MocciaIs the question everyone is asking: Can a dog, but animals in general, really “predict” an earthquake?

Think of the amazing discovery that animals can really predict earthquakes, mainly because no technology today can predict them. The idea of ​​animals sensing an earthquake by giving us time to prepare clearly appeals to everyone and is a game-changer. But beware – There is no scientific evidence for this possibility. For this reason, the scientific community is very divided between those who absolutely do not want to overdo it and those who have instead tried to posit correlations between certain anomalies and the earthquakes that followed. Also because “Certificates – Recommendations” It has been passed down in abundance, even for thousands of years.

«It is very important to clarify one aspect in order to avoid misunderstandings – stresses Andrea Moccia – from a scientific point of view There is no evidence Some animal behaviors are able to predict earthquakes. There is no doubt about this and no geologist will say otherwise. To date there are studies on animal behavior in relation to earthquakes. But the fact that these studies exist does not mean that animals feel earthquakes. You have to prove it first. Until then, it is important not to get confused, because today there is not enough to spread disinformation and create fake news.”

How do animals predict earthquakes?

On the Internet we can find many videos of dogs seconds before the shock They count or they run away. In this case, the scientists investigated another ability of the animals, that of perceiving an earthquake in front of us. Italian study from 2018published by the researcher Joanna Delisso On theThe Open Journal of Earthquake Research, looking at vocalizations, such as howling dogs, and other abnormal animal behaviors that occur between 40 and 70 seconds before the shock. According to these studies, the animals will warn f waves From earthquakes that we can’t perceive. In fact, humans would only be able to warn S waves. But what are these waves?

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They are called P waves, such as “primary” or “primary,” because when an earthquake occurs, they are the waves that They spread faster Which seismographs detect before – explains Moccia – imagine a race between a Ferrari and a 500. P waves are Ferrari, S Waves are 500. P Waves move longitudinally, parallel to the direction of the wave, they compress and expand the terrain like an accordion. S waves, or “minor” — 500 to be clear — arrive later than the P wave, because they are perpendicular to the direction of the wave, and thus cause an oscillatory motion, similar to sea waves. Well, we can’t help but feel these waves.”

As some researchers explain, the animals will have the ability to perceive P waves, which we are not aware of. So we can say that in online videos, in fact, Animals do not predict earthquakes But they will react to the earthquake that is already under way, even if we don’t notice it yet. But now let’s move on to the second question, perhaps the most fascinating one on which there have been hundreds of studies and many of which are still in progress: Animals can anticipate the arrival of earthquakes, Not a minute ago, but with days, even weeks ago?

How do animals behave before an earthquake?

the location USGS (American Geological Institute) He reports some remarkable cases. The first certificate belongs to 373 BC, just before a major earthquake hit Greece, rats, weasels, snakes, and centipedes left their homes en masse. another, more recent, It dates back to 1975: The Chinese authorities decided to evacuate a city Haicheng After an unusual behavior of snakes, which suddenly came out of their slumber and started crawling out of their holes. Shortly thereafter, a 7.3-magnitude earthquake occurred, which went down in history as the first predicted earthquake in history. Local authorities estimated that this decision saved about 150,000 lives. when he was there The earthquake that struck Indonesia in 2004However, the locals said that the elephants began to move away from the sea towards the higher regions, and thus managed to avoid the tidal wave that destroyed the coastal towns. Let’s be careful, however, that these sThese are only reported cases and are not validated scientific studies Thus, it does not take into account the thousands of other variables in nature that may have influenced these behaviours.

How long before animals feel an earthquake?

Between 2016 and 2017, an international team led by Martin Wikelsky, ornithologist and director Max Planck Institute for Animal Behavior – An institute that analyzes animal behavior in nature – Watch the behavior Cows, sheep, rabbits, chickens and sheepdogs with tracking technology in a village farm capriglia, With the approval of local farmers. Over the course of four months they were well logged into that area 18,000 earthquakes: above all small tremors, but also dozens of earthquakes of magnitude 4 and above, including the 6.6 earthquake that we all remember as the devastating earthquake Hobby. Well, researchers have noticed that animals, especially animals enclosed in enclosures, are starting to get agitated Up to 20 hours before each new shock. Based on these differences in behavior they attempted to derive estimates for the earthquakes that arrived shortly thereafter. That way – they wrote in the research – they were able to make a correct prediction Seven out of eight earthquakes. They also add a detail: the closer the animals were to the epicenter, the faster their behavior changed compared to others.

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For the authors of the study, it would be clear that there was a connection with the earthquake, but the reason that would have prompted the animals to respond in this way is another mysterious element about which many hypotheses have been advanced. Can animals communicate with each other by alerting each other? For example: The dog scares the cow by barking. But what signal might they see?

Among the many hypotheses that have been put forward is the hypothesis according to which animals react to concentration positive ions in the air, a chemical signal that is being studied among the precursor phenomena of earthquakes. Studies say this: practically near the plate slip, where pressure builds up, the electric field begins to propagate even over long distances and can reach the surface. Upon contact with air, this electric field produces positive ions. The concentration of these ions will have a Negative effect on the mood of animals, making them practically all uneasy. This premise, if you want to dig deeper, was developed by a NASA geophysicist Friedman Freund.

skepticism of the scientific community

For that segment of the scientific community that is most skeptical of the whole animal seismology issue, these research must be considered wholly inadequate because they have many weaknesses. In 2018, a group of geologists and ecologists examined Fact More than 700 reports include animals belonging to 130 different types. of their own account, Posted in Bulletin of the American Seismological Society.Finally, it turned out less than 1% Of the seismic events there was indeed unusual behavior before the earthquake, while in many cases it was the first aftershocks – P waves, remember? – To alert the animals.

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Apart from this, the skepticism of the scientific community hinges on the fact of this Animals are subjected to many different stimuli And it is not easy to determine whether the state of anxiety is based on an earthquake occurring a week later or on who knows what else.

and then If earthquakes are considered “unexpected” events, there is a reason: All possible signals that precede it, such as ions in the air, or deformation of the ground, electromagnetic signals, etc., are not at all easy to identify, so much so that in fact they are often associated with an earthquake only after it has actually occurred. Besides the fact that they often have nothing to do with seismic events. To make you understand, a higher concentration of ions can also be detected in the air due to a thunderstorm.

Conclusions and ongoing research

Anyway, the scientific community is still in the works: Martin Wikelski, an Italian farm-watching ornithologist, is the brains behind The project is called IcarusIn cooperation with International Space Station. In practice, there is Giant antenna located 400 km from Earth Which, since it was “turned on” in 2019, has been Track the movements of animals across the surface of the planetto collect large-scale information this time with the aim of understanding whether animals move when an earthquake occurs.

Oh yes, having pointed out that in these studies there is still no certainty – including Andrea Moccia – it must be said that in scientific research it is necessary not to put flashes and to investigate any phenomena. And the task of science is to ask questions and seek answers in the scientific way ».

Think of what it might mean, supported by increasingly sophisticated research and technology, to try to unravel one of the many mysteries of the animal kingdom, from which we still have much to learn. And maybe who knows, cooperating in a healthy and respectful way with animals, in the future, the evacuation of our cities may not be just an isolated case but a normal life.