Date: January 20th, 2017
I have a theory. That nasty sewer rat might save your life.
First, a brief review of earthquakes.
Japan, the U.S Pacific Northwest, anywhere there is a major fault line (see Figure 1), you could be fine one moment and dead the next. When you think about it, I’d be lucky to finish writing this article before an earthquake hits.
The U.S Pacific Northwest is in the “danger zone” of two potential earthquakes, both very large.
The first one I was aware of comes to us via the San Andreas fault, lining the near entirety of California. This is the one everyone hears about, they even made a movie about it. The movie exaggerated a bit (see: 5 things the ‘San Andreas’ movie got wrong), but all hype comes from somewhere. This “somewhere” will kill you.
The second comes to us from an offshore fault, the Cascadia subduction zone, in the Oregon/Washington area. This fault has been waiting thousands and thousands of years to strike. The New Yorker calls this, if it happens, “the worst natural disaster in the history of the continent.” See: The Really Big One
Both could kill thousands. If there is anything to take seriously in this world, the threat from The Big One (San Andreas) and The Really Big One (Cascadia subduction zone) would be it. And yet, we don’t have earthquake prediction down to a science. If you’re a scientist reading this, don’t worry. I’m not judging anyone in particular, I just find it curious that something so terrifying is a “we’ll sleep on it” thing. And forget about having it down to a science, we don’t even have it down to an art. All you see are articles with the conclusion being some variation of “we don’t know.” See either of these: Why Can’t We Predict Earthquakes? or Can Animals Sense Earthquakes?
“Earthquakes are unpredictable” may not be true for much longer.
This is my original theory so please enjoy:
I came up with my theory in physics class, of course. My teacher Mary was explaining frequency. (See Frequency and Period of a Wave to learn about frequency.) If you’re not in the mood to learn that much, frequency affects whether or not you can hear something. We Homo sapiens can hear “middle” – it’s not really the middle – frequency (from about 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz, though we hear sounds best from 1,000 Hz to 5,000 Hz, according to DOSITS: What sounds can we hear?). We can’t hear lower than 20 Hz, or higher than 20,000 Hz.
As we all know, animals (most species other than us) can sense earthquakes. For a very long time, we’ve wondered how. But our conclusion stops short of an answer, as with the earthquake prediction.
I think they’re hearing it.
I’m going to give you two links (please, please read them), and see if you can tell what these two articles have in common:
“Dr Grant, a lecturer in animal and environmental biology, told MailOnline that rodents seemed to be particularly sensitive and disappeared completely eight days before the quake.” (First article.)
“…repel rodents such as mice, rats, moles, squirrels and gophers.” (Second article.)
No one has put these two pieces of information together before. The first article states that animals could possibly sense earthquakes by way of ionization, and the second states that rodents react strongly to high frequency sound.
My theory: rats can hear an earthquake coming!
Rodents can hear the highest frequencies of any animal known to react “strangely” to an earthquake. You’ll notice that the first article mentioned that “they recorded the reflection of very low frequency (VLF) radio waves above the area surrounding the epicentre.” But knowing that rodents are most sensitive, low frequency doesn’t make sense, at least not as “the thing” they hear.
Let me walk you through a sample earthquake – from the all-knowing narrator’s POV:
There is always going to be friction and pressure in the Earth’s crust. So the “white noise” will be perpetual, which is how the rodents get used to it, because they get used to repeating noise at a stable volume (which you’d know if you read the second article!).
But as the pressure builds, the frequency – and the “noise” itself – gets lower, louder, and weirder.
At around two weeks before the earthquake, the rodents start reacting.
At around four days, the “pet animals” – dogs and cats – begin to go hectic.
Now, I want you to think long and hard about what you read in the Discover article (Can Animals Sense Earthquakes?), the Daily Mail article (Animals CAN predict earthquakes), and the time frame I used.
This makes sense.
Thank you for reading. And please, pay more attention to your dog – or gerbil.
By the way: I am totally open to feedback (comment or email me at email@example.com), and you can criticize the validity/importance of my theory, or give me new/better information (please email me, I don’t want that stuff in the comments).