Howdy water fans,

And welcome to Go Hydrology where the water cycle’s always spinning and visitors are always welcome. We didn’t so much “reinvent" the water cycle as we gave it a reboot for our modern times. Our goal? We bring the water to you!

Mid summer lull?
Why July lulls the water cycle to sleep

Though still the wet season,

Rainfall typically ebbs (slightly) in July.

Monthly rainfall for Big Cypress Nat’l Preserve. Can you see the lull?

The reason?

Someone once described it to me as the lull that sets in between the last of the continent’s spring time fronts and before the tropical waves really kick in.  Over the long term that’s resulted in consistently (slightly) less rain in July than the other four core wet season months (i.e. June, August and September).

When will the wet season get its groove back?

Answer: Probably with a tropical storm. August, September and October are south Florida’s peak storm months.

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Advice: Still, you’ll want an umbrella handy.

Overview of rain across south Florida

Mid summer soliloquy
Origin story of a hydrologist

When exactly does a hydrologist …

Become a hydrologist?

Bob explains his origin story

In this video, I dive deep into my past to try to figure it out. What I learned? While there was possibly one magical moment “when it all clicked,” it was as much a gradual process as it was instant success. As for my greatest hydrologic achievement. While many may say Go Hydrology, I am very confident that moment has yet to come, and — if it shapes up like I hope it will — it will be nothing short of a total reinvention of the water wheel. Hint: Think sundial meets and an underground cloud.

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Question: Everyone has some hydrologist in them. What’s your water origin story?

My brother (right) introduced me to water. My first boss Dom (left) taught me how to mix water to make mud (i.e. liquid cement) for laying brick and block.

wet season

Holiday summer rain guide
Why months don't matter, or maybe they do

Often we think of summer rainfall …

In terms of a total or by months.

South Florida’s summer has 5 acts: (1) the spring prelude (Apr 1 – May 15), (2) the Early Wet Season (May 15 – Jul 4), (3) Mid Summer Doldrums (Jul 4 – Sep 1), (4) Fall Finale (Sep 1 to Oct 31), and (5) Encore Rains (Nov 1 – Dec 1)

But maybe a better way to frame it is by major holidays. The reason? For one, the rains that come “just before” and “just after” the official wet season (i.e. as defined from June through October) are just as important as the summer rain itself. Timely spring rains can boost the water table just before the summer rain machine turns on in the same way that November Soakers can prolong the summer high water stand. Look no further than 2020’s Eta (in November) as proof. I’m not saying to do away with months (yet), but I do believe holidays for nice mile markers for refining our Water Cycle IQ. BTW: The above chart is for south-Florida wide.

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Minority Opinion: Of course monthly rainfall matters! Here’s a closer look for monthly rains in Big Cypress National Preserve.

The swamp has received 3 months in a row of above average rain
big weather

Florida’s “meteorological” four horsemen
And why they aren't so scary after all

Can you hear the apocalyptic atmospheric stampede?

Not to worry — the world is not coming to an end.  It’s just the sound of one of Florida’s four horsemen galloping across the sky.

Storms roll across the Florida peninsula
like a stampede of wild horses

Who exactly are the Four Horsemen you may ask?

  • The first is our old faithful of the summer: the Enhanced Sea Breeze. I’m not talking your any day old run of the mill sea breeze. This is the one that, with a little help of upper level atmospheric instability and a Gulf flyover of a deep dipping Jet Stream – two factors that puts extra wind behind the sails of the sea breeze, creates our gargantuan Kilimanjaros rising out of the Everglades and the famed morning showers offshore of Miami.
  • The second horseman is the Continental Front. The thunderous squadrons of clouds that they bring, often leaving cold air in their wake, are typically a dry season event. But they’re not unheard of in the early summer season. That’s what makes June such a critical rainfall month for south Florida. Lingering springtime instability up on the continent – both in the upper and lower atmosphere – juices the early part of the rainy season, from Memorial Day to Forth of July. Once July roles around, a more homogeneous air mass takes hold across the southern peninsula. Trade winds blowing due east off the Bermuda High become the prevailing wind pattern.
  • It’s the Bermuda High that paves the path for the third horseman, and the scariest: the Cape Verde. These are the mammoth hurricanes that spawn off the coast of Africa, and head west around the perimeter of the Bermuda High. This one packs the full punch – horizontal rains, instantaneous – if only momentary – sea level rise, and tree-toppling winds. And this is no sucker punch – it broadcasts its potential fury days in advance, but it keeps its exact landfall a secret until the day approaches, and I use the term “day” only in calendar sense, because once the Cape Verde stampedes to shore, it turns daylight into night, other than a brief glimpse of daylight at its eye. That’s its prelude to the second half of its 1-2 punch, more commonly known as its knock out blow.
  • The fourth horseman is the Tropical Tempest from the Gulf and from the Caribbean. Usually not as scary as the Cape Verde, they play a prominent role in the early and late part of the hurricane season. Don’t be overly concerned with the magnitude of these, because even a disorganized wave of tropical moisture can give us the coveted BRD – Big Rain Day, as coined by the District’s Meteorology team. In technical terms, that’s a sFL-wide daily rainfall total of more than 1 inch. Geoff Shaughnessy tells me we need 6 BRDs to keep the annual water coffers filled.

You can hear and see them
coming from miles away

Florida’s four meteorological horsemen are each ominous in their own way, but after a long dry season their hooves, too, are music to water managers’ ears.  Finally, aquifers and wetlands can start to refill.

But come high water the same horsemen are cause for concern.

That’s the thing about the four horsemen:

They are a wild breed.  Yes, you can tame the landscape upon which they roam with levees and canals only so much.  The horsemen in their full fury have a reputation of running roughshod over civilization’s carefully laid plans.

In 1990 Lely Development Corporation commissioned
five 1 1/4 life sized running horses for the entrance to their luxury country club community in Naples, Florida.

But mostly the four horseman are fun to watch (and hear) from a distance.

Just be sure to take good cover when they run near!

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Caveat: Of course the predominant direction that all storms arrive is “downward” from up in the sky!