Sudden Herd Deaths and Meteor Shockwaves

| May 8, 2017

Sudden Herd DeathsIn researching solar system disruptions, we are bound to examine patterns of geological change here on earth. These include earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and meteor falls, i.e., “shooting stars” and the more powerful and dangerous “fireballs.” Earthquakes and volcanoes are nearly all recorded worldwide automatically, 24 hours a day, and volcanoes even make good targets for tourism!

However, meticulous work on meteor falls is a poor stepchild of the scientific endeavor. We depend on passionate, typically unpaid individuals to do a manual review of sporadic fireballs caught on few scattered sky cameras, note reports by amateur astronomers, and collect information from lay witnesses—and then key in all the data by hand! And don’t forget: the great majority of our planet (we can’t set up observation stations at sea), and meteors keep falling around the clock (but we get to see them best only when we’re sleepy).

Nonetheless, some highly spectacular meteor events lately—such as in the Tunguska region in 1908, over the city of Chelyabinsk in Russia four years ago, and even over Lake Michigan in 2017 the night of the American Super Bowl LI—have kept us on alert. Then the other day it hit me: we have another source of data about fiery meteor falls, and one that is rather more tragic, in fact. This data can be found in the sudden and inexplicable mass deaths of herd animals. I agree that the causes of such disasters can often be disease, poisoning, panic, and lightning. But I think we need to add meteor shockwaves to the list.

And just as such mass deaths have been growing in frequency in recent years, I also think this fact mirrors an increase in dangerous meteor falls across the globe.

Inexplicable Sudden Mass Deaths

Reading about apparently inexplicable sudden mass deaths of both domestic livestock and wild animals, I realized that internal injuries from meteor explosions might explain many such cases, when disease, poison, or storms have all failed as reasonable possible causes.  These internal injuries can come from undocumented meteor falls with explosions that simply go unnoticed, except for the terrible events they leave behind. Yet the news reports always seem worried about the recent uptick in the rate and brutality such odd and terrible events.

Exploding meteors can be a reasonable explanation for many of the unexplained or even inexplicable sudden herd deaths. Such meteor explosions will also explain the reports of flashes of light and loud booms, so often termed “lightning” by witnesses (often the livestock owners themselves), even though such “lightning” often happens in the absence any attendant rain, wind, clouds, or storms. The subsequent explosive shockwave that is too close to the animals can certainly produce deadly internal injuries. An airburst explosion would leave no ground crater, and only rarely start wildfires. The shockwave would burst open the delicate organs that keep us all alive, animals and humans alike. Even a “mild” meteor explosion would still be deadly to animals/people and yet fail to show any visible damage to trees and vegetation.

When birds suddenly fall out of the sky, thousands of them crashing to earth in mid-flight, lightning simply cannot be the reason. Illness or poison usually takes some period of time, and they certainly do not kill a large population in an instant. A shockwave that must be the cause, something resembling the effects of an atomic weapon. And no nation is randomly exploding nuclear bombs at odd times and places. Such erratic locations and times are in fact typical of meteor falls.

Exploding Meteors

In the middle of farm country, people mostly keep their eyes on the ground to do their work, and even when meteor fireballs occur by daylight, their brilliance usually is washed out by the sunlight or cloaked by cloud cover. And if a meteor exploded in an overcast sky, how else would you describe it other than “lightning” and “thunder.” In the news reports, veterinarians and other investigators often seem to express doubts about lightning being the way to explain all such herd deaths. They doubt it because of the total absence of the traces lightning usually leaves behind: burns, singe marks on the coat, scars on the legs where the electricity jumped to earth, small craters in the ground, and much more. Lightning rips off masses of bark from tree trunks and branches; it breaks off large branches and splits whole trees in two. Yet dozens of cattle die instantly, while the trees around them are left totally unscathed.

Shockwaves from exploding meteor falls, powerful killer pulses in the atmosphere can go far in supplying a very good explanation for many of those “inexplicable” cases. One of the weirdest cases of sudden herd death remains the 300-plus reindeer that suddenly died on a hillside, far out in the open in a national park, in the uplands of southern Norway last August—quite unlike cattle clustering under trees during a rainstorm!

Chelyabinsk, Russia

The shockwave from the meteor that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, 4 years ago, damaged 7,000-plus buildings, an amazing number, even though the city was about 25 miles (40 kilometers) away from the ground-zero point directly beneath the meteor’s explosion. The shock wave arrived more than 3 minutes after the flash of the aerial explosion. Most of the 1,500 human injuries were from flying glass (modern folks who spend most of their time indoors), but a few people were physically knocked to the ground by the shock wave, and at least one victim suffered spinal damage and was airlifted to Moscow for serious medical care. It was winter, and so relatively few human beings were outdoors that morning. I wonder what the Russian reports have to say about the farms and livestock located closer to the center of the blast.

The sound of big, exploding meteor fireballs is often termed a sonic boom (although technically incorrect). There were many reports of a sonic boom in Wisconsin and Michigan when the Super Bowl LI fireball flew past, and exploded. Very fortunately for people, birds, and animals alike, the explosion occurred over Lake Michigan.

Another meteor fireball resulted in a sonic boom, again at night, in the countryside near Irkutsk, Russia, in October 2016. This sound was heard 10 minutes after the visible explosive flash. This means the shockwave was enormously powerful, managing to travel at the speed of sound for 10 minutes, which equates to about 120 miles, and still be audible. There are many other “delayed booms” attested after people have witnessed fireball events. These all provide evidence of the terrible force of those explosions, entirely consistent with their potential to kill entire herds of animals instantly.

The infamous disaster of 5,000 dead birds in central Arkansas birds the night of December 31, 2010, and in several other states in the American South, was chalked up to the birds being frightened by New Year’s Eve fireworks and flying blindly into buildings and power lines. What? Was that the first New Year’s celebration ever? Of course not. Something different must have happened. A month later the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission reported “blunt force trauma” was the cause of death in the dead birds they had examined, 13 in all. One resident in the town of Beebe stated it sounded like hail was falling on his roof! Instant death while in mid-flight. A woman walking out-of-doors had to open her umbrella to keep from struck by them all.

It’s not correct to ascribe all mass animal deaths to just one cause. The world is a dangerous place for many herd critters. I grieve when I read about hippopotamuses, bats, kangaroos, and on and on. Most of these have other causes, or the animals might have died at different times, or been hunted by predators, human or otherwise. But these bird disasters are the most gruesome, and there have been reports from Sweden, Manitoba, New Zealand, Italy, Indonesia.

Fatal Internal Injuries

Meteors exploding a small distance away wouldn’t leave any visible damage–just fatal internal injuries, perhaps to be read by veterinary personnel “blunt force trauma,” the force that smashes living creatures. Poison, disease, lightning, and predator attacks all leave physical or chemical traces detectable in necropsies performed on the carcasses. Internally damaged organs, however, especially after a carcass has laid under the sky unnoticed for several hours (exactly how killed cattle are often discovered) would be almost indistinguishable from ordinary decomposition. And few veterinarians would be looking for shockwave injuries. And I’ll bet almost no veterinarian would suspect mid-air explosions from undetected meteors as the source of those shockwaves. At least, I’ve never seen anyone mention it before.

Lessons to be learned: First, if you see a meteor fall, treat it like a fast-approaching tornado—get to a strong shelter close by, or hunker down in a safe place, and wait for at least 10 minutes. The dangers to be expected will be like those of a tornado, but they’ll come at you at the terrible speed of sound. Second, sudden herd deaths are increasing in frequency, which most likely means there is a continuing increase in unwitnessed meteor fireballs, so this is not a frivolous matter. Third, an uptick in meteors certainly means a global disruption due to some problem(s) involving the entire solar system. We now know there has been major climate change on several planets—and there aren’t any humans causing ecological disasters on the other planets.

So study everything you can  and remember the words repeated to Roman conquerors in their triumphal military procession through their home city: Memento mori, remember you are mortal. Love the animals, love the people, love the planet. And remember to live, but remember, too, that you are mortal.

Category: Space

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