Subject: Re: Whale Questions

Robert Kenney (
Fri, 14 Nov 97 10:29:01 EST

>Date: Fri, 14 Nov 1997 10:09:17
>From: Robert Kenney <>
>Subject: Re: Whale Questions
>At 15:49 11/13/97 -0800, you wrote:
>>Dear Dr. Kenny,
>>	I am a student at Kastner Intermediate School in Fresno, California.
>>I'm doing sicnece project on marine biology and I have a few questions
>>about the grey whale's migration on the west coast of the United States.
>>Will the the El Nino effect thr migration of the gray whales? Thank You
>>for your time.
>This is a very interesting question, and one without a right answer.  All
we can do is make some guesses (except scientists called them hypotheses,
not guesses).  Since we don't really know how whales find their way during
migration, we can't know for sure whether El Nino will affect migration.  My
guess would be no.  El Nino basically means warmer water in the tropical
Pacific.  I would not think that water temperature is something that the
whales follow for migration (they could follow water depth or the coastline,
or use the earth's magnetic field or the sun for a compass), so El Nino
should not change their migration.  If they use temperature to decide when
to migrate, then the timing of migration might change.  However migratory
animals are more likely to use the length of days to tell when it's time to
go north or south.  Daylength is a much more reliable measure of what the
date is - on the first day of spring the day is always 12 hours long, but it
might be cold and snowy or warm and sunny.  
>El Nino might have other effects on gray whales, though.  Changing water
temperatures might change their food supplies (either how much is there, or
where the best feeding grounds are).  Higher temperatures could affect the
newborn calves in Mexico - making it better or worse for them.
>Dr. Bob

 | Robert D. Kenney, Ph.D.      |
 | University of Rhode Island          ('gsosunONE' not 'gsosunELL') |
 | Graduate School of Oceanography                                   |
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