Whales are washing up on beaches because of solar storms

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Solar storms could explain why so many whales wash up on North Sea beaches, new research shows. 

A total of 29 sperm whales died on beaches after becoming lost and trapped in shallow waters in early 2016

Research from the University of Kiel, Germany, proposes disruptions to the Earth’s magnetic field triggered by solar storms could be why so many whales are beaching themselves. 

The term solar storm refers to the atmospheric effects felt on Earth from huge bursts of energy emitted by the sun. These energy bursts, known as solar flares, send a stream of electromagnetic energy towards Earth. 

Whales are thought to navigate the water using the Earth’s magnetic field, but when solar flare-ups cause disruption, the whales are left disorientated.

Scientists believe the problem is particularly bad in the North Sea because magnetic disturbances are more common at more extreme latitudes, closer to the Earth’s poles.

Young male whales are said to be most affected. They make their way towards the polar region between 10 and 15 years old to feed off the masses of squid there.  

Younger bulls are more likely to be confused by solar storms because they have not yet learned to adapt to magnetic disturbances at higher altitudes. Researchers say the “naive” whales may become lost in the southern Norwegian Sea and become stranded in the shallow North Sea.

Scientists believe the mammals spend their early years in lower latitudes. Many whales live in the deeper seas Azores in the eastern Atlantic. 

There were 29, mostly bachelor, sperm whales beached along coastlines of the UK, Holland and Germany between December 2015 and early January last year.

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