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Fact check: False claim that mass whale beaching in Australia tied to 'engineered flooding'

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 11/29/2022 Isabella Fertel, USA TODAY
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The claim: Mass whale beaching in Australia was caused by 'engineered flooding'

Hundreds of pilot whales are seen stranded on a sand bar on September 21, 2020 in Strahan, Australia. (Photo by The Advocate - Pool/Getty Images) © Pool, Getty Images Hundreds of pilot whales are seen stranded on a sand bar on September 21, 2020 in Strahan, Australia. (Photo by The Advocate - Pool/Getty Images)

Scientists are still working to determine why about 230 pilot whales beached themselves off of the coast of Tasmania, causing most of the animals to die. 

But an Oct. 11 Facebook post claims that "engineered flooding" is to blame for the mass stranding event.

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"Prayers for Australia during this Engineered Flooding," reads text included in the post, going on to reference electromagnetic fields. "The EMF blasts to steer and prep the storm even beached the whales. Such bs." 

The post has been shared more than 150 times and includes a photo of the beached pilot whales.

But this claim is baseless. While scientists are still investigating the cause of the stranding, there is no evidence it is linked to "EMF blasts" or "engineered flooding," according to experts.

USA TODAY reached out to the user who shared the post for comment.

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Record-breaking rainfall behind flooding in Australia 

Australia has been hit with record-breaking rainfall over the past few months, leading to devastating flooding in large parts of New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania

However, there is no evidence that the flooding was “engineered,” or that electromagnetic fields were used to guide any storms.

Representatives for Australia's Bureau of Meteorology confirmed that recent flooding events were not a product of weather manipulation. 

"The Australian Government does not possess or use any rain-making technology," a spokesperson for the Bureau of Meteorology told USA TODAY in an email. "The current climate situation, characterized among other things by the patterns know as La Niña, is conducive to wetter than usual conditions for eastern Australia." 

Ken Karipidis, assistant director of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency's Assessment and Advice Section, also said the claim that electromagnetic fields influenced recent weather is nonsense. 

“There is no scientific evidence nor is it scientifically plausible that electromagnetic fields – EMF – can be ‘engineered’ to cause or influence meteorological events such as flooding or storms,” Karipidis said in an email to USA TODAY. 

Electromagnetic fields are produced by both natural and artificial sources. Man-made sources of electromagnetic fields include x-rays, tv antennas and radio stations. Naturally occurring electromagnetic fields are produced by atmospheric processes such as ionospheric currents, thunderstorms and lightning.

However, it is not possible for electromagnetic fields to produce atmospheric processes that cause or influence meteorological events, according to Karipidis.

La Niña is a climate pattern in the Pacific Ocean characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The pattern can affect weather worldwide, and heavier-than-usual tradewinds can lead to a more severe hurricane season and heavy rainfall. 

"Australia had its second-wettest October on record," a representative for the Bureau of Meteorology told USA TODAY in an email. "Australia's food bowl, the Murray Darling Basin, had its wettest April to October ... on record." 

Fact-checkers have debunked other claims regarding weather manipulation in the wake of the floods. 

Scientists are still investigating the reason for mass beaching event   

Veterinarians from the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania’s Marine Conservation Program conducted post-mortem investigations as part of the response to the mass pilot whale stranding. 

"The ultimate cause of the stranding event remains unknown, but investigations showed health and condition did not appear to be causal factors for the individual whales examined,"said a spokesperson from the group.

Biological samples and information from the necropsies have been made available to researchers across the globe.

Whale and dolphin strandings are not predictable and can occur for a variety of reasons. Part of the reason why pilot whales strand themselves in such large numbers is because of their social structure, according to Dr. Vanesa Pirotta, a wildlife scientist based in New Zealand. 

“Pilot whales are known to be very social," she said. "So when we see one of the pod strand, that may unfortunately bring with it many others. But we don’t have the full understanding as to why these kinds of events happen.” 

This is not the first time that a large pod of marine mammals has stranded itself in this area of Tasmania, called Macquarie Heads. Pirotta called the area a stranding "hotspot."

A spokesperson for the Tasmania Department of Natural Resources and Environment said some scientists theorize that “echolocation, and hence an animal’s ability to navigate, might not function properly in the shallow breaking waters around Macquarie Heads as it does in deeper waters."

But both Pirotta and the agency spokesperson said further research is required to prove this theory, and theories like it. 

Experts say the high frequency of strandings in the area means it is likely a combination of factors is involved. 

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Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that a mass whale standing in Australia was caused by "engineered flooding." Researchers are still working to determine what caused the pilot whales to strand themselves, but there's no evidence it is tied to electromagnetic fields, which the post wrongly alleges caused the flooding. Experts say there is no evidence the Australian flooding is the result of weather manipulation, which can't be done with electromagnetic fields.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: False claim that mass whale beaching in Australia tied to 'engineered flooding'

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