Solar storms could be causing some species of whale to beach themselves due to interruptions to their navigation receptors that use the Earth’s magnetic field.
Research shows there is a correlation between periods of strong solar activity and an increase in larger whale species getting lost and then beaching themselves due to being navigationally “blinded.”
There is an impending rise in solar storms when the next solar maximum occurs in July 2025 and whales may start beaching themselves more then.
The solar maximum is the most active phase of the sun with the most solar storms that occur in about an 11-year cycle.
It has been suggested that solar storms make it harder for the whales to use their magnetoreception, according to past research, Live Science reported.
Magnetoreception acts like a GPS system that lets them know exactly where they are and where they need to go, Kenneth Lohmann, a biologist at the University of North Carolina who has extensively studied magnetoreception told Live Science.
The radio frequency noise from solar storms likely disrupts the whales’ magnetic receptors, said Jesse Granger, a sensory biologist at Duke University and lead researcher of a 2020 study, per Live Science.
“Effectively blinding them from being able to sense the magnetic field,” Granger said.
Granger’s study found that whales were more than four times more likely to beach themselves during increased solar storms.
There are at least two whale species of gray whales that use magnetoreception.
The species include (Eschrichtius robustus) and sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus).
It is also believed that the humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) uses magnetoreception.
The past research gives scientists good reason to believe that solar storms are the reason for the whales going blind and beaching themselves.
Researchers admitted that understanding exactly how magnetoreception works has been difficult as they must observe the animals in the wild and can not capture them to do so.
However, the researchers can confirm that solar storms are interfering with the whales that use it.