Heart of dry season

We’ve entered into the “heart of the dry season” in Big Cypress Nat’l Preserve.

What we call sheet flow here in the swamps, has long since stagnated and, unless you really look hard, completely disappeared from sight, but it’s still there to be sure: only it’s below ground, dropping deeper and deeper by the day.

We call it the water table.

Last spring was soggy in comparison:

The mid-April standing wetting front was still flooding up into the cypress domes thanks to a wet February, March, and April.

Over the past 15 years, the swamp apple forests – our lowest lying wetlands – don’t dry up until mid April, but this year waters vanished from its peat floors by the end of February.

The reason of course has been the lack of rain.

Winter is our traditional dry season, but this winter and spring has been an unusually dry one by any measure – only 3 inches. Big Cypress Swamp averages around 12 inches of dry season rain (as measured from November to April).

I call it our “heart of dryness” because each new day of no rain and increasing air temperatures brings dryer and dryer conditions – converting the swamps into a tinderbox,

But it’s the same rising heat that eventually sparks the engine of peninsular Florida’s great rain machine – the sea-breeze fueled convectional thunderstorms.

They should start up sometime toward mid May … only weeks away.

Until then, it’s high-alert wildfire season in the Big Cypress Swamp, similar to recent dry springs of 2001 and 2007.

Click here to view an update on the Keetch Byram Drought Index.

(Note the clear line between continental Florida – where rains last week ended the southeast’s multi-year drought – and peninsular Florida, where the seasonal drought marches on.)

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