Weather And Land Prediction By Animal Behavior

| November 28, 2018 @ 2:30 pm
Discussion:  Weather folklore, though based on years of observation, are simply just observations. They do not hold as much weight in predicting weather since scientific advances have become increasingly more accurate. Nonetheless, animals utilize their five senses so efficiently that they can detect incoming changes in the environment better than humans. So which animals actually help predict the changing weather and ground conditions?  

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Image:  Elephants after the 2004 Indonesian tsunami. Credit: How Stuff Works
Elephants and cattle start hearing sound at 16 Hz while humans typically hear a range between 20 – 20,000 hertz (Hz). Earthquake shockwaves and ocean waves produce sounds in the infrasonic range (below 20 Hz). Elephants can also feel the vibrations produced by earthquakes beneath their feet. While infrasonic, or low-pitched sound vibrations, can make people nauseous and feel uneasy, animals perceive the sounds as dangerous and instinctively seek safety. 

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Image:  Shark in the ocean. Credit:  How Stuff Works
Birds, bees, and sharks are also very sensitive to infrasonic frequencies created by hurricanes and thunder. Extreme changes in barometric (air) and hydrostatic (water) pressure trigger animals’ survival mechanism. The intense drop in pressure causes severe pain to sharks and they dive to deeper waters for more protection and pressure relief. Birds react by sensing where it is safe to migrate while bees scout the environment for a safe location of a new hive.

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Image:  Frog in the rain. Credit:  How Stuff Works

Aside from natural disasters, frogs give an indication as to when it will rain. Frogs absorb water through their skin. After they mate, they lay eggs in bodies of freshwater. If you hear more than the occasional croaking, chances are that rain is on the way. The loud, intense croaking is a result of frogs becoming excited about a soaking rain because more water means they are more likely to have successful reproduction.

Other animal behaviors that are based on weather folklore are more popularly said to occur before the weather changes or ground shifts:

  • Cows lying down before rain
  • Snakes slither away before earthquakes
  • Sheep huddle before rain or snow
  • Wolves howl before a storm


Scientists do acknowledge that animals can sense environmental changes before they occur, but scientists have not come to the conclusion that these animals can detect earthquakes or extreme precipitation events days in advance. If you notice any of the animal behaviors that are scientifically-proven to detect hurricanes, earthquakes, or precipitation events, you may want to pay close extra attention to the weather forecast. Even when the other observed animal behaviors are seen, it is best practice to be alert to changing environmental conditions.

To learn about additional societal impacts of weather, click here.

© 2018 Meteorologist Amber Liggett

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