An increase in Manatees' migration MIGHT point to a colder winter

APOLLO BEACH, Fla. - Tuesday was a typically Florida Fall day, partly cloudy with highs into the 80s.

At TECO's Manatee Viewing Center next to the Big Bend power plant, a big buzz was brewing over the number of manatees present.

"I think it's absolutely fantastic," said Margaret Futter.  "It's really, really lovely."

Eileen Barnett -- also visiting the observation center from England this Tuesday -- concurred.

"The mother and the baby came swimming by," she said, recounting her close encounter. "It was the most magical experience."

For tourists like these, the chance to see a sea cow so early is a bonus.  But even on a shirt-sleeve day in November, there was wonder about whether their early arrival was a harbinger of harsher winter to come.

"I think they're quite intelligent," opined Margaret.  "They would know maybe when we are going to have colder weather."

"Well why not?" asked  Brian Barnett. "They must know things, mustn't they?  Its got to be water temperature isn't it?"

Indeed it is -- as the outflow from the plant keeps the water in this canal nearly 90 degrees, the warm water loving manatees are drawn here.

And the colder it gets in the coastal waters, the better this feels.

So anecdotally it makes sense, but what about scientifically? Fortunately, we found another scientist out here.

"It's entirely possible," said Analytical Chemist Rachelle Smith.  But true to her scientific roots, this woman in town to present her findings on a soil and water study, told me that the atmospheric data and Manatee behavior would have to be tracked and verified. "It's too early to say at this point," she said.

A very interesting theory and yes, one that we should definitely keep an eye on as we go through this winter season. 

Of course, we're able to keep an eye on things much more specifically with Titan Doppler Radar and Florida's Most Accurate Forecast.  So maybe we don't need to monitor the manatees after all.

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