beached whales, stormy weather

From: Pieter Arend Folkens (
Date: Tue Nov 12 2002 - 01:54:39 EST

  • Next message: Pieter Arend Folkens: "whale watching, northern California"

    >I was wondering if their had ever been a study done on beached whale herds
    >and the effects of lighting. I actually had a dream about this and I know
    >it sounds crazy, but what if a bad lighting storm could effect their
    >natural sonar. I was thinking if the leader of the heard was thrown of
    >course maybe the rest of the heard would follow.
    >I think it would be interesting to track them through different storms to
    >see if the effects if any occur. Or may it has already been done. I am no
    >scientist but I would be interested to know.....

    There have been no formal studies that I am aware of in that regard.
    Anecdotal observations are a possibility. It would be a rather simple
    thing to correlate mass strandings with severe weather. I suspect
    that a mass stranding occuring near a severe weather event would be
    obvious and considered as a cause, but I have heard of no

    Now to your thought. First, let's isolate the possible whale species
    for your hypothesis.

    Since baleen whales do not have sonar (and they do not beach in
    groups), that leaves us with toothed whales. The two major groups of
    toothed whales are deep divers and dolphins. The deep divers dive
    deep (duh), and can stay deep for long periods of time. Dolphins stay
    closer to the surface, but can move fast.

    Now to the physics of a T-storm. (I guess your concern is more over
    thunder rather than lightning as thunder is sound, lightning is
    visible.) The rumble typically occurs well above the surface of the
    water and never in water. Sound waves of that type travel well
    through air and are likely to reflect off of the waters surface with
    only a part of a thunder's energy actually entering the water.

    If you saw the movie "Saving Private Ryan" you might recall the
    opening sequence in which the loud explosions of guns and cannon at
    the surface were quite muffled under water. The sound of thunder
    would be similar.

    So, to pull it all together, toothed whales might hear an approaching
    storm and move away from the source of the thunder. Also the energy
    of the thunder would be insufficient to penetrate the water with
    enough force to do any damage to a whale's sonar.

    Interesting idea though. Keep dreamin'


    Pieter Folkens


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