Subsequently, the water temperature had been decreasing in the northern Indian River Lagoon system that includes estuary waters of the Indian River, Banana River, Mosquito Lagoon and associated coves, canals, inlets and locks. CCAFS and PAFB share the lagoon shoreline with the United States Fish & Wildlife Service at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, NASA at Kennedy Space Center, the National Park Service at Canaveral National Seashore and many local municipalities in Brevard County.
Average water temperatures in the shallow water lagoon system vary by depth and location but dropped to a low of 40° F. Cold water events are not unusual for this area, having been observed a few times over the last century. However, the magnitude of this event was certainly unusual, if not unprecedented.
Biologists from CCAFS, PAFB, MINWR and NASA contractors anticipated impacts to wildlife species and were on the lookout by land and water for threatened and endangered sea turtles affected by the cold water temperatures in the lagoon. When exposed to cold water for an extended period of time, cold blooded sea turtles exhibit signs of hypothermic cold-stunning, becoming lethargic, unable to swim freely to dive to deeper warmer water or even lift their heads to breathe.
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