Forget ‘Sharknado:’ Researcher says sharks can predict hurricanes

Chief Scientist explains how weather impacts sharks on ‘Talk to Tom’

When a hurricane has its eye on Florida people in Central Florida usually tune in to News 6 as Chief Meteorologist Tom Sorrells gives updates on the track.

As storms inch closer to our coast Sorrells also takes calls from viewers and keeps them updated on what they can expect in the hours and days ahead.

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But meteorologists aren’t the only ones who can predict hurricanes.

On the latest episode of Talk to Tom, Dr. Bob Hueter, Chief Scientist at OCEARCH, said that sharks can actually detect when a hurricane is coming.

Hueter said scientists at the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium in Sarasota made the discovery when they were working with sharks as a hurricane was approaching.

“They basically detect a fall in barometric pressure that is transmitted down through the water column, and they get out of shallow areas knowing that a storm is about to turn their habitat upside down,” he said.

Hueter added that not all sharks react the same way, and preparation often depends on the shark’s size.

“It’s how they survive, the smaller ones. The bigger ones, not so important,” he said. “They go deep, but they can ride things out closer to the shore, but the little ones that are in shallow areas, they know when a storm is coming, and they get out of harm’s way.”

Storm prep isn’t the only similarity Hueter said sharks have with humans. He said sharks are also snowbirds, and they “spend the summer up north, the winter down south... right now, they are on their way south... some are already in Florida now.”

When it comes to interactions with sharks, Heuter said people are less likely to get bit during the winter.

Heuter said sharks often get a bad rap and that when they bite someone along our coast... they likely were not intending to “feed on people,” and it’s usually a case of “mistaken identity.”

But during the summer, Hueter said you should avoid the water at dusk and stay out until after the sun rises because sharks are more likely to mistake you for a meal.

“It’s just critical that everybody using the ocean realize that it’s a wild place. It’s like going to a national park and going for a walk, a hike out in the woods. You’ve got to know how to interact with the wildlife properly,” he said.

To learn more about sharks, their migration patterns and when they will be swimming past our coast, watch Talk to Tom. You can see it anytime on News 6+.

You can also submit your weather questions by clicking here.

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About the Author:

Tiffany produces the News 6+ Takeover at 3:30 p.m., Florida's Fourth Estate and Talk to Tom.