Ambience: Rain and Thunder
â€œAnd in the distance you can hear some thunder. And the sky is getting grayer and grayer.â€
Welcome to Pulse of the Planetâ€™s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. Thatâ€™s Tigga Kingston, an Assistant Professor of Biology at Texas Tech University. Sheâ€™s at a wildlife reserve in Malaysia, studying the regionâ€™s diverse bat species. But, as might be expected in a rainforest, it looks like the dayâ€™s research might be rained out.
â€œAnd sometimes, it does all this blowing business and we get all geared up for a major downpour, and then nothing happens. So it could blow over but I think that’s a little unlikely today.â€
When the bat traps are wet, theyâ€™re much easier for the bats to detect, and therefore avoid. So at the start of the rainy season, so rain delays to research will only increase in frequency. And according to Tigga, predicting the storms can be difficult.
â€œIt’s very variable, the rain here, you can be seven kilometers away, or a hundred meters away, and sometimes you’ll be getting completely drenched and then you just go up a couple hundred meters and the rain won’t have reached you. And that’s actually one of the questions we’re interested in, because we have the five sites around the reserve, does the local climate conditions — we mean very local– so conditions at site one which is 7K from site two which is 7K from site three. Do the conditions vary very much at these sites and how does that affect the timing of events, so when do animals breed, when are they giving birth, and how that varies over the year. Because a lot of insectivorous bats appear to time their breeding to be around about now, actually, when the rains start, just after the short dry season. Although, the climate these days is so variable that it’s quite hard to know if that’s relevant.â€
Although the rain hinders research, it also brings new life to the rainforest. Weâ€™ll hear about that in a future program. Pulse of the Planetâ€™s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. Our thanks to Earthwatch. Iâ€™m Jim Metzner.