Sunday afternoon, I curled up with a blanket, a dog and a mug of tea and watched a foot of snow fall, while reading about the incursion of the epic polar vortex. We humans know enough, most of the time, to stay indoors when it's this horrible out — but what about the poor chilly animals? They know to stay inside, too (as it were). For hibernating mammals like bats, frigid temperatures are … kinda no big deal.
Cave-dwelling bats shut themselves down for winter while there are no insects for them to eat, entering a deep state of hibernation. They find cold spots within caves or abandoned mines, and they cluster together in areas where temperatures don’t fluctuate much, explains DeeAnn Reeder, a bat biologist and mammalogy expert at Bucknell University. “Those deeper parts where they’re hibernating are not going to be subject to the temperature fluctuations that we would experience,” she reassures me. “They’re really tucked deep into these caves or mines, in areas that are stable year-round, so it’s just not an issue for them.”
Problems arise when the bats rouse from their torpor. If they’re near a cave entrance and decide to fly around, either because they were bothered or because they awoke hungry, they can get caught in the cold and freeze. In Toronto over the weekend, about 50 big brown bats were found outside a mall in -19 C temperatures (that’s about -2 F), and six bats froze to death before a wildlife rescue group recovered them.
Big browns are often the last bats to enter hibernation, according to Reeder. They choose barns and attics and often go looking for a backup hibernation spot (a hibernaculum) after they’re inevitably disturbed. Reeder calls them "superbats" because they're so hardy — but for those Toronto bats, it was just too cold.
Today’s coldest measurement in the U.S. was -36 (that’s without wind chill) in Crane Lake, Minn. It is not a good idea for any mammal to be outside in those temps — even at zoos. Many zoos closed today and kept their animals indoors. Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo was open, as it is every day, but the -40 F wind chill was too much for the polar bear and Bactrian camels, according to public relations director Sharon Dewar.
The stretch of sunny, mild weather enveloping the northeastern United States will come to end early next week as rain and much cooler air returns.
Experts won’t make specific predictions about the upcoming influenza season because the severity of the season varies from year to year, but they do suggest flu shots and simple, preventative measures to keep illness at bay.
Winter will start with a bang across parts of northern and western Europe as frequent storms bring disruptive rain and wind.
One of the best meteor showers of the fall will peak on Friday night with over a dozen meteors streaking across the night sky every hour.
There is concern that a tropical cyclone may develop in the Bay of Bengal this week with potential impacts to eastern India, Bangladesh and western Myanmar.
Following weeks of wildfires rampantly spreading throughout California, firefighters may get a leg up on the blazes this week.
As firefighters continue to get the upper hand on the blazes charring Northern California, much-needed rain and cooler air are set to descend over California later this week.
The Memphis Tigers will travel to TDECU Stadium on Thursday night to face the Houston Cougars.