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?
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.
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.
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:
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.
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© 2018 Meteorologist Amber Liggett
"Famine houses" similar to this one in County Clare, near Galway, were abandoned when occupants either emigrated or died. Up to 6 family members, cows, and sheep would live in the tiny one bedroom house.
Have you ever thought about how the weather affects the food you eat? What about the climate impact of crops or whether you’ll have a potato with your steak tonight? From 1845-1849, a blight known as the Great Irish Potato Famine affected Ireland. Millions of Irish died, as well as millions more emigrating to other parts of Europe, Australia, and North America. The population of Ireland has not recovered since.
Ireland has a damp, maritime climate due to its proximity near the eastern edge of the Atlantic Ocean. This cool, damp climate helps to favor the growth of the potato, but is also ideal for the spread of blight. The blight caused by the water mold, Phytophthora infestans (P. infestans), tends to thrive in these conditions, where it develops spores on the leave and washes into the rain-soaked soil to affect the growing roots. The summer of 1845 was especially wet. By this time, a zonal flow pattern had emerged, which can deepen the Rossby Waves (large-scale waves associated with the polar jet stream separating the cold polar air from warm tropical air) and can act as a blocking system for up to 10 weeks at a time. This can affect entire growing seasons and prolong excessive wet, dry, or cold conditions. Sea surface temperatures were above normal for most of the period, but it is unclear how an ENSO event affects Ireland and northern Europe. It is thought that a moderate El Niño may lead to a slightly colder, wetter winter, but that is also dependent on NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation).
Not only did climate play a huge impact in the role of the blight, but certain impacts such as poverty, economics, and politics also played a factor. The weather was also rough in England and poor Irish farmers shipped what they had to England, leaving their own families with barely enough to eat. Trade from the North America introduced new diseases and mutations (including this specific strain of potato blight). This certain potato was only one of two of its kind- an increase in genetic variety may yield a better crop. In the early stages of the famine, the British government also wasn’t prepared to deal with the magnitude of the crisis, and thus, were slow to react.
Weather affects the severity of many plant diseases, but climate change is likely to alter the patterns of disease severity in crops. With a changing climate, areas that are warm may get even warmer causing crops to wilt ; dry areas may be more susceptible to prolonged drought, meaning a less predictable harvest from year to year. In the future, drought, extreme heat, and widespread flooding events will complicate farming in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America. Already, we are seeing the effects of climate on Mexican farmers and wilting crops. Evaluating future patterns can help to focus crop breeding to produce more resilient plants and focus on disease management research. While the strain that caused the potato blight is still a common potato disease and gives us an idea of what famine may look like in the future, the focus must shift toward constantly improving technology to prepare for warming and other various impacts.
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© 2018 Meteorologist Sharon Sullivan
As you continue to get deeper into the 21st century, there is no debate whatsoever that science education and details thereof have become increasingly important in taking center stage more now than ever before in recorded history. In getting a little deeper than that, many teachers and educators across the country and the world are always on the look for reliable and versatile scientific content help educate the next upcoming generation of interested and/or even passionate young scientists. Thus, the operative goal of any such educator is to find a vast wealth of knowledge from a diverse group of scientists from across a large spectrum of experience to maximize their ability to explain more complex scientific issues and/or concepts.
Well, in short, right here at the Global Weather and Climate Center (GWCC), we have all of that and more both within and even beyond the confines of the GWCC Kid’s Corner. Whether you have toddlers, young elementary, middle, and/or high school students looking to learn more about weather, climate, environmental issues, space weather, or other topics, GWCC will have something you will be looking for or have a keen interest in. And, best of all, it is all free-of-charge and can be used in classrooms around the country and the world for that matter. Thus, the GWCC Kid’s Corner is a hot spot for any and all youngsters and educators from any and all walks of life who want to both expand the breadth of their science education potential and make it fun and entertaining by the same token.
So, the next time you find yourself indoors, be sure to give the GWCC Kid’s Corner a lengthy visit and learn all about the most profound atmospheric and climate issues from around the world as a start. While you are there, test yourself with some of our trivia questions as well. It will be a rewarding and educational experience that you will want to share with anyone and everyone. So, without any more waiting, click here to immerse yourself in the GWCC Kid’s Corner experience.
© 2018 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz