than humans do, it seems reasonable to suggest than some animals may be reacting to the smell of unpleasant gases released from the bowels of the earth prior to earthquakes. Animals have also been reported to act frightened before volcanic eruptions, which provides further evidence for this notion.
We know that the nose of a dog Is about a million times more sensitive than that of a human, and some insects (such as the silk moth) have extraordinary sensing abilities. For example, at mating time the female silk moth produces less than a millionth of a gram of sex attractant, which Is distributed by the wind. A male, with its hypersensitive antenna, can receive the mating signal from as far as seven miles away. A single attractant molecule is enough to arouse his attention. A few sexy molecules are all it takes to move the insect into purposeful action, and-off he goes In hot pursuit of the female.
However, although some species are far more sensitive to olfactory stimuli than we are, others, like songbirds, are less sensitive, and there doesn’t seem to be a correlation between an animals’ sense of smell and their sensitivity to earthquakes. There also isn’t any evidence that earthquakes are generally preceded by the leaking of gases out of the earth. Even If such gases are released through tiny, newly-created cracks in the earth’s surface before earthquakes, then why do animals not respond with fear when when they burrow through the ground? Likewise, why don’t animals panic when people dig holes, or stumble upon gas-filled cavities? Why do songbirds–who are otherwise so indifferent to odors–sometimes become so excited prior to an earthquake? And how could dogs possibly tolerate the air pollution of cities without panicking as they often do before earthquakes?
It seems unlikely that the smell of unpleasant gases Is a primary factor In what causes the unusual pre-earthquake behaviors. However, since some organisms respond to changes in the polarity and concentration of atmospheric ions, it has been suggested that this sensitivity enables certain animals to detect the air-Ionizing effects of radon released from the ground in advance of certain earthquakes. The effects of radon gas on the level of air ionization can also be expected to change the electric field gradient, and dozens of animals (including humans) have been shown to be sensitive to changes In the electric field gradient of the atmosphere. (Chalmers, 1967) This Is discussed in more detail In the upcoming section on electric fields.
Magnetic Field Theory Another candidate for the underlying cause of unusual animal behavior prior to earthquakes is fluctuations In the earth’s magnetic field. Because some animals have a sensitivity to variations In the earth’s magnetic field (usually as a means of orientation), and since variations in the magnetic field occur near the epicenters of earthquakes (Chapman and Bartels, 1940), it has been suggested that this is what the animals are picking up on. Reactions to weak magnetic fields have been shown to exist in bacteria, termites, beetles, and fish (Barnothy, 1969), so the possibility can not be dismissed that some animals may occasionally recognize the magnetic-field changes of 1-100 gamma that sometimes appear before earthquakes.
However, it is unlikely that magnetic fields alone are the sole cause of unusual pre-earthquake behavior, as experiments have shown that magnetic field disturbances cause confusion in animals at worst, not the fear and panic that has been witnessed prior to earthquakes. Also, magnetic field changes usually appear much too early before an earthquake (sometimes months before), and the magnetic field variations to which animals would normally be exposed to-because of day-to-night variations and frequent magnetic storms in the ionosphere–are at least as great as those variations associated with earthquakes. But magnetic field variations may be part of what animals are responding to, as electromagnetic signals are strongly associated with earthquakes. Extending the field of study beyond just magnetism into electromagnetism–which covers a wider sphere of Influence–may be key to understanding what Is occurring with these animals.
Marsha Adams, at the Time Research Institute in San Francisco, developed sensors that measure low-frequency electromagnetic signals, which, she says, allow her to predict earthquakes with over 90% accuracy. Adams set up a network of electromagnetic sensors along some of the major faultlines in California, and from the input she receives–which Is analyzed by specialized computer software–she issues weekly earthquake forecasts. Adams suspects that low-frequency electromagnetic signals-created by the fracturing of crystalline rock deep In the earth along fault lines can have biological consequences, and that her Instruments are picking up the same signals that sensitive animals do.
As a result of this technology–which is supported by private subscription, not public funds–Adams says that her system makes unusual animal behavior observations obsolete. However, since It has not been clearly determined what it Is that the animals are picking up on, complete confidence in the electromagnetic sensors may be premature, and Adams’ 90% accuracy claim hasn’t been confirmed by an Independent study.
As part of my research with Dr. Sheldrake we subscribed to Adams’ earthquake prediction service for four months. Since there weren’t any earthquakes during this period we can’t confirm her accuracy rating. However, she didn’t make any false predictions. Adams’ work deserves more serious attention, and further support for her belief Is provided in the section below on electrical field theory.
Electrical Field Theory:
As we discussed at the beginning of this section, fish are known to have a high degree of sensitivity to variations in electric fields, and this appears to be an important clue for understanding how animals react to pre-earthquake signals. The surface of the earth has a constant electrical field, and because telluric current variations (natural electric currents flowing near the earth’s surface) have also been noted before some earthquakes, It has been suggested that this may be what the fish are reacting to. (Ulomov and Malashev, 1971) To test this hypothesis, Motoll Ikeya and his colleagues at Osaka University in Japan, have done numerous studies where they exposed a variety of animals–including minnows, catfish, eels, and earthworms–to a weak electrical field.
Ikeya’s laboratory experiments were conducted to see if exposure to a weak electrical field could elicit the pre-earthquake animal behaviors-what the Japanese call Seismic Animal Anomalous Behavior (SAAB). Ikeya’s experiments produced interesting results. Fish showed panic reactions (Ikeya et al, 1996), and earthworms moved out of the soil and swarmed when the current was applied. (Ikeya et al, 1998) Unlike their American counterparts, some Japanese researchers take SAAB research quite seriously. A group of Japanese researchers have even gone so far as to do genetic experiments, to see If they can find specific genes that encode for a sensitivity to pre-earthquake signals, which would make some animal breeds more sensitive than others. (However, these studies by Individual Japanese scientists do not necessarily reflect the general attitude of most contemporary seismologists In Japan. When I Interviewed Professor Junzo Kasahara–a prominent geophysicist at the Earthquake Prediction Research Institute at the University of Tokyo–he told me that most seismologists in Japan don’t take the SAAB research that seriously.)
Tributsch, the author of When the Snakes Awake, has suggested that a piezoelectric effect may be responsible for triggering the pre-earthquake behaviors in animals, and this explanation seems significantly more plausible than the ultrasound and gas-leaking theories described above. This theory makes sense because of the following facts. When certain crystals-such as quartz-are arranged in a way that pressure is applied along particular portions of the crystal’s axes, the distribution of positive and negative ions can shift slightly.
In this way pressure changes to produce electrical charging of the crystal’s surfaces. On the average, the earth’s crust consists of 15% quartz, and in certain areas it can be as high as 55%.
According to Tributsch, the piezoelectric effect of the quartz Is capable of generating enough electrical energy to account for the creation of airborne ions before and during an earthquake. This electrostatic charging of aerosol particles may be what the animals are reacting to. Since some animals have also been observed acting frightened prior to thunderstorms, and are known to flee areas, or show signs of distress before a storm arrives, it may be that they have evolved a sensitivity to electrical changes In their environment.
The Nervous System and Electric Fields:
Some people say that they feel an uncomfortable pressure in their head, or a persistent headache that lasts for weeks, which suddenly vanishes moments before an earthquake strikes. Because magnetite has been found