Solar storms may affect whales
Early last year, 29 sperm whales were found stranded on beaches across northern Europe, six of them on the east coast of the UK. When the bodies of young sperm whales began appearing on the beaches of France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK, nobody could quite work out why. Some people thought that the whales had been poisoned or had accidentally followed their prey into shallow waters and become beached (when whales and dolphins get stuck on the sand). Now, a study has revealed that solar storms could be behind the deaths.
A team of researchers from Germany’s University of Kiel think that these strandings could have been the result of large solar storms. Solar storms occur when the Sun pushes out clouds of energy and particles. They can affect Earth’s magnetic field. It’s thought that changes to Earth’s magnetic field might have disrupted the sperm whales’ special ability to navigate through the water in the same way solar storms can affect compasses. This is thought to be why the whales became lost in the shallows, and beached themselves.
Whales travel in groups known as pods. Experts think that if one of the whales is affected by the solar storm, it could result in others in the group following, which may have been what happened last year.
Young sperm whales became beached across Europe.