Can Animals Predict the Weather?

Weather Talk
Thursday, March 13, 2014 - 12:34pm

Watching the behavior of animals, birds and insects may help you stay ahead of bad weather

I was watching the behavior of some of the birds outside my window this morning. They seemed overly happy and active, so I know it is going to be a good weather day. I remembered some of the weather folklore I had heard and read about when bird’s behave certain way a storm or a bad winter is right around the corner. That got me thinking about a dog I had once that did not like to be bathed at all! He always used to run inside and hour or so before it rained. I just thought it was because he did not want to get wet. Now that may be true, but how did he know? In today’s “Weather Talk” I will touch on some of the science and folklore about animals forecasting the weather.
The animals do not exactly predict the weather. Most researchers say that animals sense and react to certain environmental signals that accompany weather changes.

Animals are better at using their five senses than humans.

Hearing- According to; “The most critical sense is hearing. There are some sounds people can't hear. On the low end of the scale are infrasonic, low-pitched sound vibrations on the hertz frequency scale falling below 20 hertz (Hz). On the other end are high-pitched sounds, like dog whistles, which humans also can't hear. People typically hear in a range between 20 and 20,000 Hz (middle-aged adults usually don't hear beyond 12,000 or 14,000 Hz). Elephants, however, generally hear between 16 and 12,000 Hz. Cattle also start hearing sound at 16 Hz, but can continue to hear all the way to 40,000 Hz. And what sort of elements produce sounds in the infrasonic range? The answer includes earthquake shock waves and ocean waves. “

There is really not much known about how animals and sense these vibrations is generally unknown. Scientists have been analyzing nerve chains, body organs, etc in a variety of species that may be able to pick up sound vibrations that humans just can't sense. The infrasonic sound waves are somehow picked up by animals. Researchers note that infrasonic sound produces uneasiness and nausea in people. Animals may perceive these sound vibrations as dangerous and instinctively seek safety.

Can watching a flock of birds let you know when a storm is coming? Should we expect rain when cows lay down?

Depending on how low our feathered friends are flying, we can gauge how bad the weather is going to be. It’s been said that if birds are flying high, the weather is clear. But if they’re flying closer to the ground, the air pressure of a storm system is causing them pain at higher altitudes. There is actually some science behind this one according to Duncrafts Wild bird blog,; “Most birds have what’s called the Vitali organ, a special middle-ear receptor that can sense extremely small changes in atmospheric pressure. With extreme sensitivity comes equally acute pain reception, so the faster the atmospheric pressure falls (indicating an approaching storm), the more birds that fly low (and the lower they fly) to the ground in an attempt to alleviate the discomfort caused by the pressure change in their ears at higher altitudes. They don’t have to be flying to escape the pain, either – if you notice a sudden and sharp increase in activity at your feeders or a massing on power lines, there’s probably a good chance that a storm is bearing down on your location. Conversely, if you notice that birds are flying high up in the sky, the weather is most likely clear.”
Duncraft also says that all birds get quiet before it rains and seagulls take a break from flying and fly in to the coast to wait out bad weather.

“If crows fly in pairs, expect fine weather; a crow flying alone is a sign of foul weather.”

Bee’s and Butterfly’s are now where in sight, they disappear before it rains. Ants build their mounds higher well before the weather turns bad. When heavy rains are on their way Red Ants will leave their mounds.  Ladybugs bunch together before when the temperatures are going to warm.

Farmers have always claimed that watching cow’s behavior can tell you the weather is going to change. Cows will lie down when rain or snow is on its way. The get nervous when strong thunderstorms are approaching and swat their tails faster and sway more.

Sheep will huddle tightly together before it rains or snows. This makes it easier to herd then back into their pens.

These are more “cat lore” than true science. If your cats sneeze a lot, it means it is going to rain. If you cat is sleeping on its back or when cats snore this means there will be snow that day.

A dog hearing is some twenty times more sensitive than humans. They can hear the rumbles of thunder way off in the distance. We all know about the canine sense of smell. Dogs can smell of ozone in the air attributed to lightning, and the extra moisture in the air well before we see the flashes of lightning or the falling rain.

There are so many folklore sayings about the behavior of animals before the weather changes. Send me some of your own you have heard or read about to
So watch the animals and birds are acting from now on to see if there are going to be any weather changes in the near future. If you have animals that act strangely before bad weather moves in, send me an email. Every little advantage helps when your career is forecasting the weather

Chuck DeBroder, Chief Meteorologist
KTSM, NewsChannel 9, NBC, El Paso, TX Chuck DeBroder NC9 @wxchuckNC9


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