Watching night-time highs inching higher
SFL Weekly Watersheds Summary: April 23 – 29

WEATHER. It’s been recently hard to differentiate the smoke clouds from the rain clouds. Or at least it warrants a moments pause to discern between the two. Yesterday morning as I was driving into work it was smoke clouds rising from a wildfire south of US41 (almost up to the road berm), but by yesterday evening as I packed up for the ride west back into Naples, a solid build-up of rain clouds was blooming to the east of Ochopee. Later that night those clouds dropped some isolated showers around Corkscrew, but only left a few sprinkles at my doorstep in Naples.
Naples has already had a handful of days with day-time highs in the 90°s, but it’s the night-time lows that stoke the engine of the south Florida rain machine — it can’t crank up to full capacity until night-time lows consistently break the 70° F mark. The weekly-average night-time low for Naples has inched up to around 67° — so there’s still a few degrees to go.

( Interestingly, the night-time low for Miami is already consistently bottoming out a few degress above 70° (due to atmospheric balming from the near shore sweep of the Florida Gulf Stream and easterly trade winds running off the Bermuda High). Down in Key West, night-time lows are already above 75°. Farther north in Tallahassee, night-time lows are still hanging around 55°, despite Naples-esque daytime highs in the mid-80°s.

BIG CYPRESS. Preserve-wide stage is currently tracking at about 1 ft below the bottom of our swamp forest and marsh wetlands. Surface water is still hanging around about a half-foot deep in the slough in our southeast corner, but that’s our wettest area. Everthing to the north of US41 is much drier. Preserve-wide stage is currently tracking at the same level of a year ago, at the start of May 2006. Preserve-wide, our hydric pinelands have been dry for over 6 months, our wet prairies have been dry for a full four months (since the start of January), and our tall cypress habitats have been dry for 2 months now. Preserve-wide stage briefly and shallowly reflooded swamp forest and marsh habitat with the 2.5 inch rain we had 3 weeks back, but water stage is now a foot below the ground in these areas now.

EVERGLADES. Regulatory stage in WCA 3 is currently tracking about 10 inches below the 5-year average for early May, and about 9 inches below early May of last year. This year’s regulatory stage (at 8.5 ft msl) is already tracking lower than where it bottomed out last year in mid May at around 8.6 ft msl. Sloughs north of I75 have been dry for almost 2 months now. In southern 3A, slough water depths are still pooling slightly over 1 ft deep. That’s exactly how deep the sloughs in southern 3A bottommed out last year at the nadir of the dry season. So it looks like water depths in southern 3A should beat last year’s low-water mark. The last time the sloughs in southern 3A went completely dry was all the way back in 1989 (from late May to early July). Up in Loxahatchee, a few inches of standing water is still hanging around in the central sloughs. These sloughs also tend to hold water all year round, but may go dry this year, just as they did in May of 2001.

LAKE O. Lake O stage is currently tracking about 4 ft below its 5-year average for early May, about 3.5 ft below early May of last year, and about 1-2 inches higher than late April of 2001. Lake stage has been below the bottom of the littoral zone (13.5 ft msl) for over a year (almost 13 months). Its been below 12 ft msl for 3.5 consecutive months. That’s still short-in-the-tooth compared to 10 consecutive months the Lake stayed below 12 ft msl from Nov 2000 to Sep 2001.

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