Animals Can Predict Earthquakes And This Is How They Do It


Animals have long been established to be sensitive to their environments, and researchers have proven that this sensitivity extends to earthquake prediction.

Researchers led by Anglia Ruskin University's Rachel Grant observed animal activity at the Yanachaga National Park in Peru. With camera traps set up around the national park, they discovered that animal activity dropped in the area as far back as 23 days before a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit in 2011. Up to seven days before the event, animal activity ceased completely.

This is highly unusual since the region is abundant in wildlife.

"The park was 320 kilometers (198 miles) from the epicenter, and I thought, there was not much going to be happening. But when I saw the results, I was totally shocked," said Grant.

Researchers believe the drop in animal activity was due to positive ions being released. Despite their name, positive ions are bad news: they are released into the air when rocks are under stress.

As stress on the ground grew, more and more positive ions were generated, making animals (most especially rodents and those living on the ground) uncomfortable. This prompts them to leave the area. Positive ions may trigger hyperacidity, confusion, agitation and headaches in people and have the same effect on animals.

Animals that left the national park during the time leading to the Contamana earthquake were thought to have moved lower down the mountain site where the level of positive ions in the air would be lower.

A review of camera footage from the Yanachaga National Park showed that during periods of low seismic activity, animal movement was normal in the park. Researchers believe that the results of their observation may come in handy in furthering studies geared toward improving short-term forecasts for earthquakes.

Since animals are already in place in various parts of the world, they would make great complements to existing monitoring systems.

"[Animals as forecasters] could be used in developing and earthquake-prone countries; it is affordable and feasible to implement as it just requires someone to monitor animal behavior ... there is no need for satellites," stated Grant.

Friedemann Freund, a senior research scientist from the SETI Institute in California, explained that animals have acute abilities to sense the environment around them. Observing animals in turn will help people zero in on subtle changes in the environment, which could indicate the coming of a major earthquake.

Belief that animals can predict earthquakes has long persisted but was only supported by anecdotal evidence. The results of this observation offer proof that the belief indeed has merit.

Andrew E. Russell | Flickr 

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