By Sam Foster
Supposedly, this year is supposed to be the third warmest on record, but it is also the same year that the Gulf of Mexico froze over. Florida is already bracing for the third freeze of December and the cold is a month early.
The chilly temperatures are wreaking havoc on local wildlife. So far this year, more manatees have died from hypothermia than in the last of the last five years together.
Today, AP reports a mass of manatees protesting the effects of devastating cooling in Florida waters. While the manatees natural habitat has become to cold for them to survive, manatees are flocking to waters around power plants to stay warm (you know, the giant carbon producing structures that are causing all the animals to be in danger everywhere.
People aren't the only ones in Florida who don't like cold weather. Manatees - those giant aquatic mammals with the flat, paddle-shaped tails - are swimming out of the chilly Gulf of Mexico waters and into warmer springs and power plant discharge canals. On Tuesday, more than 300 manatees floated in the outflow of Tampa Electric's Big Bend Power Station.
"It's like a warm bathtub for them," said Wendy Anastasiou, an environmental specialist at the power station's manatee viewing center. "They come in here and hang out and loll around."
Cold weather can weaken manatees' immune systems and eventually kill them. State officials said 2010 has been a deadly year for the beloved animals: between Jan. 1 and Dec. 17, 246 manatees died from so-called "cold stress." During the same time period in 2009, only 55 manatees died from the cold. In 2008, only 22 manatees succumbed to chilly temperatures.
Manatee deaths documented from Jan. 1 through Dec. 5 are nearly double the five-year average for that time period, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission statistics.
This manatee protests appear to be catching on:
During last year's cold snap, some 329 manatees congregated at the Tampa Electric power station. In Broward County on Tuesday, some 50 manatees gathered in the outfall of a Florida Power and Light plant.
Manatees aren't the only one's in danger...
- Baby sea turtles can make it out of the frigid Carolina waters
- Key West, record low of 42
- Mass of dead star fish wash up for third year in a row