Can animals help predict the weather or other natural events? Thereâ€™s a tradition of folklore that says they do, and in some cases, scientists agree. Iâ€™m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
Crickets have been called the poor manâ€™s thermometer,â€™ but can they really indicate the temperature?
â€œThe number of chirps that a cricket would make in a fourteen second period, if you count that number of chirps and you add a number forty to that, you should come up with a temperature to within one degree Fahrenheit. Now a number of studies have been done to demonstrate that this is quite accurate.â€
Mark Wysocki is an instructor in meteorology at Cornell University whoâ€™s been investigating whether or not thereâ€™s any scientific basis in nature folklore – like the saying that when squirrels gather a big store of nuts, look for a long, hard winter.
First of all, you have to have some baseline for an average gathering for squirrels. This requires a number of years of studying squirrels to find out what is the average that they would gather. It also depends on the tree thatâ€™s producing the nuts. If the tree has a good year, there are more nuts available for the squirrel to gather. So the problem is trying to extract everything out, except for the weather, as an influence on this animalâ€™s behavior.â€
Thereâ€™s evidence that some animals may be sensitive to other natural phenomena besides the weather.
“There have been some people who have made observations, just prior to an earthquake, that, for some reason, cockroaches become very active. In fact, they tend to scramble out of the house. There is some idea that maybe, just like dogs are sensitive to certain sounds, cockroaches may be sensitive to certain changes that occur in the structure of the Earth, maybe the magnetic field, or actually maybe in smells such as gases being released just prior to the earthquake striking that particular area.”
So who knows? We may have a bit of nature folklore in the making here. Something like, â€œWhen the roach is on the fly, take care, an earthquake may be nigh.â€
Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation.