Warm Winter spell continues
SFL Weekly Watersheds Summary: Jan 15-21

WEATHER. According to the long-term average January is the coldest month in Naples, with an average day-time high of 76 degrees and an average night-time low of 53 degrees. This year has been warmer than normal. Day-time highs have averaged in the 80s and night-time lows have routinely averaged in the low 60s. Our lowest and longest sustained cold spell occurred back at the end of November around Thanksgiving, with the coldest night registering a 44 degree temperature. Last week, a cold front swept across the SE contintental US, dropping night-time lows in Atlanta and Tallahassee in the low 30s and mid 40s, respectively; whereas this air didn’t make its way down south to the bottom of the Florida peninsula where night-time lows in Naples stayed in the low 60s.

BIG CYPRESS. Preserve-wide, water levels in the preserve are currently tracking at the 5-year low. Current water stage is about 5 inches below last year’s end-of-January stage, and also about 5 inches below the 5-year average for the end of January. The preserve has only received 4 inches of rain since the start of October. That’s 40 percent of the 10.1 inches of rain the preserve typically receives over that 4-month period. Suffice it to say that the absence of fall and early winter rain has speeded up this year’s dry down. Wetland water levels have dropped to a point where the wetting front is starting to recede out of the tall cypress and into the the swamp forest and marsh habitats. This means that only around 10 percent of the preserve is still holding standing water, which can be found in the swamp forest or marsh habitats (now at a depth of around 6 inches), but that the cypress, wet prairie, and pineland landscape types are are largely dry.

EVERGLADES. We’re currently about half-way through the meteorologic dry season. With water control structures being shut and the general absence of rainfall inputs, water levels have gradually receded from their wet-season peaks. Each area has slightly different recession rate dependent on system operations and regional variations in rainfall. In the Park, water levels in Shark River Slough have dropped around 7 inches since this year’s late October high-water mark. Regulatory stage in 3A has dropped around 19 inches since its late September high-water mark. In WCA 2, regulatory stage at Site 2-17 has dropped 26 inches since its early September high-water mark. In WCA 1 (Loxahatchee), regulatory stage has dropped 7 inches since its late September high-water mark.

LAKE OKEECHOBEE. At 11.88, current lake stage is around 3.2 ft below both late January of last year and the 5-year average for late January. This is the first January in 6 years where Lake stage has not flooded at or above the littoral zone. Last year the lowest spots of the littoral zone remained flooded to mid April (of 2006). Interestingly, that’s the last time the littoral zone has been flooded with lake water. The 2006 high-water mark for the lake rose just up to the bottom of the littoral zone (13.5 ft msl) but not high enough to flood the levee’s interior wetlands. Current lake stage is 1.7 ft below the bottom of the littoral zone.

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