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Honeybells chime arrival of dry season’s second halfDon’t forget to pick up your Honeybells at your local produce stand.

The Honeybell’s appearance means that the dry season has hit its midpoint.
Honeybells are among the sweetest and juiciest of Florida’s citrus crop; but its harvest season is fleeting — lasting only a few weeks starting in January.
Their farewell from the fruit stand in early February is as close a bellweather we have in Florida that the water cycle clock has ticked into the second, and more telling, half of the dry season.
The Honeybell, also called a Minneola, is a hybrid between a Dancy tangerine and Duncan grapefruit (putting it in the Tangelo family of citrus) invented 1931 in Orlando.
That makes the Honeybell about as old as the Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee.
Incidently, its also Clementine season in Spain. I just got a box of over a dozen for under $4 at Publix. They rival the sweetness of the Florida Honeybell.
Hydroperiod Watch
Even the lowest of Lake Okeechobee’s interior-levee wetlands — they’re the ones at around 11 ft msl — have been dry for almost 10 months. The middle-marsh wetlands (at 13 ft msl) have been dry for over 20 months. That’s already exceeded the length of the 2000 drydown and we’re only half way into this year’s dry season.

The Lake’s 13 ft msl wetlands stayed dry for the better part of 2 years back during the drought of the late 80s. That was followed by a decade of high levels that lake levels only briefly blipped below 13 ft msl (in Spring 1997). It was just a little over 2 years ago that the 13-ft wetlands were inundated in 4 ft of water (following Wilma).

Compare that to hydroperiods in Water Conservation Area 3A.

Sloughs in southern 3A, just north of the Trail, haven’t dried down completely since 1989. That’s an 18-year hydroperiod. During the drought of 2000-2001, slough depths in southern 3A dropped to just under a foot — but still stayed flooded with water. That’s as low as its been since it shallowed to a depth of a few inches back in 1991, extending the current hydroperiod streak to 18 years and running.

Compare that to the northern part of 3A, just north of I75, where sloughs have gone dry 5 of the past 8 years (01, 02, 04, 06, and 07).

Current water depth in the sloughs in northern 3A (at Site 63) is around a half foot deep in comparison to 2.2 ft depth in the sloughs of southern 3A (at Site 65).

Anyhow, it will be fun to keep a close eye on this year’s water levels to see if the 18-year hydroperiod streak in southern 3A will finally be broken.
The wetting front in Big Cypress National Preserve is rapidly retreating farther back into the cypress strands and domes. The wetting front is on pace to complete its retreat into its last stand — the swamp forest and marshes — by the latter part of January, before disappearing completely down into the underlying aquifer sometime in February.
Over at Everglades National Park’s Shark Valley Tower, wetland water depths are also just a few inches deep. They appear to be on pace to dry up by the end of January.
That is, unless dry season rains push back the water cycle clock between now and then. It’s a wait and see as usual.
Until then, don’t forget to get your Honeybells — while they last.
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