Impacts Of Storms, Including Solar Storms, On Whales In The Pacific Ocean Near Oregon And Washington

Impacts Of Storms: In the early days of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, the question of “what happens to whales during big winter storms?” emerged as a central theme. Where do they go? Can they take it? In 2007, the answer was unclear; in general, whales in the waters off Oregon and Washington are unaffected by storms. However, there is more to it than that. Above, a connection is made at a beach on Oregon’s coast.

Indeed, there appears to be growing evidence that it can dampen their mellow to some degree, according to the new research. But then comes the shocking revelation that solar storms may have an effect on them as well!

Rarely do astronomy and marine biology cross paths.

Impacts Of Storms, Including Solar Storms, On Whales In The Pacific Ocean Near Oregon And Washington

Most of the explanations for these things haven’t changed much since Morris Grover ran the Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay in 2007. He’s retired now, but his comments to Oregon Coast Beach Connection were supported by future “study.” The fact that humans can’t exactly go sprint about the ocean during storms to track them means that research on this topic has been illusive at best and impossible at worst. Likewise, much of our technological apparatus can’t either.

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There is a school of thought amongst scientists that suggests whales can become disoriented or even tossed around by particularly large waves, and that strong gusts can occasionally alter their course. In general, they are thought to be safe when swimming to the surface in rough waters. But there’s no evidence for that.

The Whale Watching Center reported that whales had vanished from the area between the coasts of Oregon and Washington in 2007. According to Grover, it’s likely that they were already in the midst of a migration and simply sped up their passage through the area.

Mysid shrimp, their primary source of nutrition, may have been impacted by 26-foot surges in the Depoe Bay area, a second possible explanation. It’s possible that these and other food sources became dispersed or frightened, and retreated to deeper water.

Impacts Of Storms, Including Solar Storms, On Whales In The Pacific Ocean Near Oregon And Washington
Impacts Of Storms, Including Solar Storms, On Whales In The Pacific Ocean Near Oregon And Washington

At the time, he speculated that the whales’ relocation to a more favourable feeding ground was due to this factor.

In an article from last year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) made similar points about how hurricanes rip up seabeds and threaten slow-moving species like turtles.

When hurricanes approach, “Sharks, whales, and other large creatures immediately relocate to calmer waters and, generally speaking, are not too affected by hurricanes,” NOAA noted.

Evidence major storms influenced whales in some ways was discovered by OSU PhD student Lisa Hildebrand and postdoctoral scholar Samara Haver last year, adding a little more credence to the idea that whales preferred calmer environments. And yet, they were careful to stress the absence of genuine study even now.

The perspective of the observer remains the most important aspect of whale watching, both before and after a storm. And Grover put it this way back when:

When the weather is bad, it can be difficult to see the whales, as Grover pointed out. Typically, only the top three to six feet of a whale’s back or tail would be visible above the surface. To onlookers on the other side of the waves, they would be “invisible” amid a swell of four to eight feet.

The wind normally blows the whale’s spout sideways, reducing its height to about 3–4 feet, even though it has the potential to reach heights of 12 feet. During storms, we have seen whales, but only because a swell brings the whale to the surface.

However, there is some evidence, however anecdotal, that solar storms coincide with extreme strandings of various cetaceans, including whales and dolphins. There’s a long way to go before we can say for sure that whales in Washington and Oregon can use the Earth’s magnetic field for navigation and migration (like birds do).

However, biophysicist Jesse Granger from Duke University, with assistance from Adler Planetarium’s Lucianne Walkowicz, has done extensive compilations of numerous research and instances. Statistics showed that huge solar flares coincided with a high number of strandings (but not during).

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However, the data from beached grey whales, the coast’s major stars, suggested that radio frequency interference caused by solar flares was more likely to blame. Statistics were correlated with days with a lot of that kind of activity, which shows that if whales have such magnetic “sensors,” the biological mechanism is affected by radio interference rather than the actual magnetic shifts themselves.

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