Beaching Whales and Solar Radiation

By , January 24, 2012 7:11 pm

whales and solar radiation

 

Surges of solar activity may cause whales to run aground, possibly by disrupting their internal compass, German scientists suggest.

University of Kiel researchers Dr Klaus Vaneslow and Dr Klaus Ricklefs publish their study in the latest issue of the Journal of Sea Research.

The scientists looked at sightings of sperm whales beached in the North Sea between 1712 and 2003.

They then compared this record with astronomers’ observations of sunspots, an indicator of solar radiation.

More whale strandings occurred when the Sun’s activity was high, they found.

The Sun experiences cycles of activity that range from eight to 17 years, with 11 years being the average.

Short cycles are linked with periods of high-energy output, while long cycles are believed to be low energy.

Changes in levels of solar radiation have a big effect on Earth’s magnetic field.

The most notable events are discharges of highly-charged particles or solar flares. These cause shimmering lights, called aurorae, in the magnetic fields in polar regions.

Big solar flares can also disrupt telecommunications and power lines and knock out delicate electronic circuitry on satellites.

         

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Dr Thomas Challenger Challenger Mission