Scientists were virtually certain that California would be rocked by a strong earthquake in the next 30 years. Now they say the risk of a mega-quake is more likely to happen sooner than previously thought.
In recent years, the USGS (United States Geological Survey) and several universities have been testing an early warning system designed to detect the first waves of an earthquake jolt and send out an alert before the slower-moving damaging waves begin. Proponents have said a few seconds of warning can allow trains to slow down, utilities to shut off gas lines and people to duck for cover. The public alert system – still in pilot phrase – needs more funding before it can be rolled out statewide.
So… while the experts test their experimental early warning systems and look for more funding, Nature has her own early warning system already in place.
The belief that animals can predict earthquakes has been around for centuries. In 373 B.C., historians recorded that animals, including rats, snakes and weasels, deserted the Greek city of Helice in droves just days before a quake devastated the city.
Ants communicate when an earthquake is imminent to ensure the survival of their colony.
A study done by Gabriele Berberich from the University in Germany found that the behavior of the redwood ant changes in preparation for an earthquake and doesn’t go back to normal until a day or two after the quake.
When an earthquake is imminent, the behavior of the ants, changes in a unique way. They stop going in and out of their mounds. Instead, the ants congregate outside their mound before, during, and up to a day after the earthquake. They basically stop all activity within their colony and meet outside, as they sense the growing tension in their environment. By evacuating their colony, they prevent it from being swallowed alive by earthquake activity.
Exactly what insects and animals sense is a mystery. One theory is that wild and domestic animals feel the Earth vibrate before humans. Other ideas suggest they detect electrical changes in the air or gas released from the Earth.
So, when the rats start leaving the area and the ants leave their nests, It’s time to stop, drop and cover, an earthquake is on the way!
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