Dry season enters third month
SFL Weekly Watersheds Summary: Jan 1-7

WEATHER. After the early and prolonged deep freeze that swept across the peninsula for Thanksgiving, I was expecting similar below average temperatures for December in Naples. December proved to be just the opposite, with day-time highs swinging +80 degrees for pretty much the whole month (about 5 degrees higher than the long-term average) and night-time lows hanging up in the mid 60s (about 5-10 degrees warmer than the 55 degree long-term average for December). In comparison, at the northern end of the peninsula where continental air streams come more into play, the average daytime high for Tallahassee was about 70 degrees for the month of December, and their night-time low averaged around 45 degrees. We’ll see what January has in store weather and rain wise as it unfolds in the upcoming weeks.

BIG CYPRESS. Preserve-wide water levels are currently inching down below the wet prairie landscape type. This means that driving along the road, much of the vast viewscapes of treeless prairies you see are no longer holding standing water. Areas of tall cypress are still holding around 3-5 inches of water, and our swamp forest and marsh landscape types are still inundated with 9-11 inches of water. Preserve-wide water levels are currently about 4 inches below the 5-year average for early January, and about 5 inches below last year’s early January level.

EVERGLADES. Regulatory stage in WCAs 1 and 2 are currently tracking right along the 5-year average for early January. Regulatory stage in WCA 3 is around 4 inches below the 5-year average for early January. Regulatory stage by itself isn’t a good indicator for what’s going in in every corner of 3A. Water depths in southern 3A (at Site 65) are over 1.5 ft deeper than northern part of 3A north of I75 (at Site 63), which is currently holding about 8 inches of water in its sloughs. Southern 3A is holding about 30 inches of water in its sloughs in comparison. There are discharges of 200 cfs out of the S11C and ~900 cfs out of the S7P, but no other major structural discharges that I can see in the Water Conservation Areas. The S12s are still closed, and there are only very minor discharges through the S333. Down in the park, water depths in Shark River Slough have dropped down to about an 8 inches, which is about 5 inches below the 13-inch water depth-average for the start of the past 5 new years.

LAKE O. Lake O stage is currently tracking about 3.5 ft below the 5-year average for early January, about 3.5 ft below early January of last year, and 1.15 ft higher than early January of the 2001 drought year. This year is definitely on the low-end of the spectrum in comparison to Januaries of recent past. January lake stage from 2003 to 2006 all stayed at or above 15 ft msl for the duration of the month. So this year’s ~12.1 ft msl elevation is a big departure from the recent past. There are still some minor outflows (~250 cfs) from the Lake’s Caloosatchee River outlet (S77) in association with downstream releases of similar magnitude to the esturary from the S79, but otherwise there are no other steady in or outflows from the lake. Interestingly, upsteam at the northern reaches of the Kissimee watershed, Lake Toho stage has risen almost 1 ft in the past 30 days. It’s stage level had been well below average for the entire summer but now is tracking right along the 5-year average for early January as a result of its recent rise. Further to the south, Lake Kissimmee and Lake Istokpoga stage both held steady for the month in comparison and are each about a foot below the 5-year January average.

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