We love a good viral mystery here at IFLScience. And whether it’s a gravity-defying landscape or a buzz-arre insect funeral, we’re always willing to demystify the mystifying and explain the unexplained.
So when we saw a video being shared across the Internet of a forest “breathing”, we knew what we had to do.
Some Twitter commenters offered their own theories.
Some were more scientific than others.
But mostly people had one common reaction.
Unfortunately – or, depending on how creepy you found the video, fortunately – the phenomenon is actually quite mundane. The footage, which reportedly comes from a forest in Sacre-Coeur, Quebec, is just showing us what happens when strong winds meet soil that’s been loosened by a storm.
“During a rain and windstorm event the ground becomes saturated, 'loosening' the soil's cohesion with the roots as the wind is blowing on a tree's crown," certified arborist Mark Vanderwouw told The Weather Network.
"The wind is trying to 'push' the trees over, and as the force is transferred to the roots, the ground begins to 'heave'. If the winds were strong enough and lasted long enough more roots would start to break and eventually some of the trees would topple.”
As recent events have shown in apocalyptic detail, the wind can be capable of some pretty scary stuff. After a summer of gigantic NSFW hurricanes able to fire beams of antimatter at us as they lurch threateningly towards erupting volcanos, a hyperventilating forest seems almost cute by comparison. And even fairly normal wind conditions can have seriously catastrophic consequences, as the residents of Tacoma, Washington famously learned in 1940 when the Tacoma Narrows Bridge was iconically brought down by winds of only 64 kilometers per hour (40 miles per hour).
The phenomenon in the video, however, is not so dramatic – with the Weather Network saying they have “received a few videos… over the years” from people wondering just what on Earth they’re seeing.
Ultimately, it turns out the “lungs of the planet” is definitely still just a metaphor. Plants may have “brains” and even heartbeats, but any footage of a forest “breathing” is probably just the wind – or, just maybe, an earthquake.