A lot of money is being spent in developing technologies for predicting disasters and early warning systems, but progress has been limited, especially when it comes to predicting earthquakes, tsunamis, and storms. On the other hand, animals seem to be more attuned to their immediate surroundings and are able to sense certain changes in weather and other stimuli.
The Answer is All Around Us
We have heard stories about dogs barking without any apparent reason, before the area was hit by a powerful earthquake. There are also incidents where numerous earthworms were seen coming out of the ground just before floods, or the wildlife behaving strangely before a hurricane. Does this mean, we can rely on the behavior of animals and birds to predict natural disasters?
This is a difficult question to answer in a definite yes or no, as there can be many variables to animal behavior, and even though animals are known to have a heightened sense about impending disasters, not all animals seem to respond in the same manner. Researchers and scientists have studied the behavior of certain species and the results were promising. For instance, in Florida, tagged sharks were observed fleeing to deeper waters just before the arrival of hurricane.
The Information they Need
Scientists suggest that the sharks may be able sense the changes in water pressure and air before a storm, and therefore take evasive action. The sharks may not be able to understand why the changes are happening, but it triggers some instinct in them to take evasive action such as heading to a safer place where those changes are not felt.
However, most scientists are still skeptical about behavior of pets and other animals before an earthquake. Many people have observed their pets to behave strangely before an earthquake, and a geologist has even written about many pets going missing before earthquake hits in California. The geologist was even able to predict the 1989 earthquake in San Francisco based on merely observing animals fleeing the area.
Secondly, during the 2004 tsunami, fewer bodies of animals were found after the disaster. Many people saw them fleeing to higher grounds and into the forests. However, scientists disputed these observations and attributed fewer deaths of animals during the tsunami, because they were able to climb trees, and were stronger swimmers.
There is no doubt that animals have a heightened sense of their environment, but to always take their reactions to be pointers of impending doom would be unreasonable. Since we cannot determine accurately what animals and pets are reacting to, we cannot take them to be alarm systems for predicting disasters. However, ignoring their behavior totally would also be a folly, since we could be missing an opportunity to be safe.
More Information is Needed
If researchers were able to isolate factors that cause certain reactions in animals, and we were able to develop devices that would sense changes in the environment just like animals, then that would be a huge step forward in early warning systems. There is still a lot of ground to cover and hopefully more scientists will be able to observe and learn from the behavior of animals in the future.