Month of December records most rain since September
SFL Weekly Watersheds Summary: Dec 18-24

RAINFALL. Loxahatchee and West Palm Beach lead the way with 6 inches for the month of December so far. The 10-year average for December rainfall in south Florida is around 2 inches, … and that’s about what most of the major basins have received for the month to date, including the Big Cypress.

BIG CYPRESS. Water levels in the preserve haven’t dropped since the start of December as a result of the rain. Aggregate water stage for the preserve has actually inched back up into the wet prairie landscape type, which means that you’ll still find a shallow inch or two of water in many of the preserves prairies, a solid half-foot of water in the taller cypress, and around a full foot of standing water in the swamp forest and marsh landscape types. Deeper holes in those areas will hold even more water. So there’s definitely still water out there, but its just not the pervasive sheet of flowing water that persisted from August through November.

EVERGLADES. Regulatory water stage in WCA 3A has also held steady since the start of December. Slough water depths in southern 3A have held steady for the past 60 days at around 2.5 ft deep, a depth that puts the wetting front into the tree island landscape type. Water depths in northern 3A (Site 63) have dropped around 2/3rds of a foot over the same time period, and is currently standing at about a 1 foot depth in the slough, which puts the wetting front midway up into the ridge landscape type. Regulatory stage in 3A is currently tracking about 0.5 ft below its 5-year average for late December. Stage at P33 down in the Park is also tracking about 0.5 ft below its 5-year average for late December. In comparison, regulatory stages in WCAs 1 and 2 recently rose about 6 and 2 inches, respectively, from recent mid-December rains, and are both now tracking at the 5-year late December average.

LAKE O. Lake O stage has also held fairly steady since the start of December. Lake stage is currently tracking 3.5 ft below last year’s late December stage and is also 3.5 ft below the 5-year average for late December. I see that there have been some minor water releases (~500 cfs) in the past two weeks through the S79, presumably to stem inland migration of the saltwater wedge at the mouth of the Caloosahatchee. Historically speaking, this year’s December lake stage is still on the low end of the spectrum, but its still around 11 inches higher than the record December low-water mark (~11.2 ft msl) set during the drought year of 2000-01. (Lake stage eventually dropped to 9 ft msl by June of 2001.) That was an La Nina year in comparison to this year’s ENSO index leaning towards to El Nino phase. One has to go all the way back to 1989 and 1990 to find December lake stages all the way down in the 12-13 ft msl range. December lake stages since 1991 (other than 2000) have been greater than 14 ft msl, and routinely been above 15 and 16 ft msl. December lake stage in December of 1994 was over 17 ft msl. That was also an El Nino year.

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