Earthquake Sensing Animals

February 7, 2023

High overcast and turning a little crisp this late-afternoon Tuesday here in California’s Central Valley — despite the right now scene, earlier in the day was sunny, nice and warm, making for a comfortable respite from chilly winter.

Today’s domestic news item hasn’t happened as of this writing — Joe Biden’s SOTU speech scheduled in a couple of hours. Notwithstanding the reality of Biden’s accomplishments, the speech will be an overventilation episode for Republicans. The politics of bullshit, and since GOPers have no real agenda, that’s all they can put forth.
Jolting Joe has a stutter, but is gifted with a humane angle to governing — and he’s been through it multi-times already (The New York Times this afternoon on Joe’s speech preparation):

“This is a guy who has been remarkably consistent over a very long career both in the values he brings to the job and the way he articulates those values,” said Jeff Nussbaum, a former Biden White House speechwriter. “When you’re writing for Joe Biden, you’re a session musician for a band that has already released 20 albums.”

But, Mr. Nussbaum added, there was a reason behind the consistency, which he said had led the president’s list of legislative victories: “Joe Biden has to say the same thing a thousand times before the world catches up to him.”

Republicans, though, have ears gummed up with conspiracies, outright lies, and victimhood whining, thusly, are hard of hearing. The event will be interesting.

Meanwhile, the continuing horror story is the aftermath of yesterday’s earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. The scenes of the disaster are horrific as all involved are crying for help. Recovery efforts are plagued by the winter cold and a shitload of destroyed buildings and infrastructure. Reportedly, more than 7.800 people in Turkey have been rescued, and hopefully, too, that will increase in time.
Nearly 8,000 people total in Turkey and Syria so far have died, and that number is expected to leap upward:

Horrible nutshell via the Guardian‘s live blog this afternoon:

The Economist has spoken to Ovgun Ahmet Ercan, an earthquake expert, who estimates that “180,000 people or more may be trapped under the rubble, nearly all of them dead.”

The Guardian has not independently verified this figure. The UN said yesterday that it feared the toll could reach 20,000, a staggering number and much lower than this estimate.

The Turkish provinces impacted by the quake are home to 13 million people.

For comparison, almost 230,000 people died in the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.

17,000 died in the 1999 earthquake in Turkey.

Earthquakes are indeed horrifying. As I wrote yesterday about being in earthquake country, and during my 40-plus years here on the Left Coast I’ve been through a few shakers. Most have been small, 3 or less on the Richter scale, but a few at 5 or better. Although I come from tornado alley (the Deep South) there’s nothing as terrifying as a long-winded earthquake — the scream of a twister ain’t nothing in comparison, though, they are scary as shit.
The biggest and most frightful quake event for me was up in Humboldt County, a 6.5 on Jan. 9, 2010, just a few days past 13 years ago. Scared me so bad, I was afraid to take a shower for days. Read about it at Wikipedia.
And when the earthquake struck on a Saturday afternoon I was watching “300” on DVD and the shit apparently so traumatic, it took a long time to finally finish it — I’d feel weird everytime I attempted to watch the movie; finally seeing it years later on Netflix, or somewhere like that.
One of the major oddities of the incident was a dog’s reaction in the newsroom of The Times-Standard, the daily newspaper where I lived. (My original story on the event posted the next day is here — keep in mind, Compatible Creatures will be 16 years old this April, counting in more than 4,300 posts, a number, too, with earthquake themes).
Animals and earthly instincts — this scene/newsroom was less than five miles from where I was scared shitless::

Sophie is the dog’s name and she was then owned by an employee of the Times-Standard — see more on the dog at Earthquake Dogblog. And the original Times-Standrard story on the 2010 quake can be found here.

Another clip and longer view pre-quake:

And what triggered that interest in animals and quakes was a piece at The Washington Post I spied this morning on animal behavior just prior to the Turkish/Syrain shakers — science is inconclusive despite what is observed.
Apparently, animals have ears that are fine-tuned:

Birds flew erratically above snow-capped buildings. Dogs howled loudly. Then, a devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria leveled buildings and killed more than 5,000 people.

Social media users claimed that animals were behaving strangely just before the massive 7.8-magnitude earthquake and significant aftershocks. While The Washington Post could not immediately verify the footage, the idea that animals can detect powerful earthquakes before humans has been a theory around since at least ancient times.

There is scientific research that supports it. Much in the same way that seismological machines can pick up tremors undetectable to the human body, animals are better equipped to sense tiny foreshocks traveling through the Earth seconds before more powerful earthquake waves barrel through, scientists say. They might even be able to sense them before the foreshocks, some researchers say.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, abnormal animal behavior in the seconds preceding an earthquake is explained by the difference between two forms of seismic waves. Primary, or P, waves are the first to be emitted from an earthquake, traveling at several miles per second from the epicenter. These are more noticeable to animals, USGS says. P waves are followed by stronger secondary, or S waves, which shake the ground in a rolling motion.

“Very few humans notice the smaller P wave that travels the fastest from the earthquake source and arrives before the larger S wave,” the USGS guidance states. “But many animals with more keen senses are able to feel the P wave seconds before the S wave arrives.”


One researcher says animals may be able to sense earthquakes even before their foreshocks. “We have a very good indication that animals really feel the precursors of earthquakes, and it’s not seismic activity,” Martin Wikelski, a director at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior who led a study on this topic, said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

In his peer-reviewed study published in 2020, researchers attached electronic tags to cows, dogs and sheep on an Italian farm to observe their movements over several months when earthquakes were detected nearby. They found that the animals were unusually “superactive,” defined as continuously moving for more than 45 minutes, before seven of the eight major earthquakes detected nearby. The research, conducted with devices that Wikelski described as “basically little cellphones for animals,” suggested that the animals may be able to detect earthquakes potentially more than 12 hours before humans — well before any foreshocks.

The reasons animals reacted unusually are not yet clear, he said. “There are indications that they can tell us something. How they do it, we don’t know yet,” he said. He believes that their ability to sense danger may be related to their ability to communicate with each other.

“The cows initially just froze — they didn’t move at all. And then that got the dogs really nervous, and they started to go crazy, barking. And then the sheep went crazy. And that started, altogether, to make the cows really crazy.”


“There are other factors that these animals seem to grasp — but that is still a black box,” Wikelski said.

One characteristic, I think, that makes them animals,

As an aside also per animal-political clusterf*ck on Joe Biden’s SOTU is later tonight — K-Mac warned his asshole/imbecilic Republican mates to act decently, like grown-ups (CNN): ‘Ahead of President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy warned members during a closed-door meeting to behave themselves, reminding them that the “mics are hot” and the “cameras are on,” according to a source in the room. House GOP conference chair Elise Stefanik issued a similar warning.

Extra bark — dogs in Politics:

Shake it or not, here we are once again…

(Illustration out front: Pablo Picasso’s ‘Agonizing Horse,’ found here.)

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