Water Cycle Served Fresh

Go Hydrology 3.0
New features for the water cycle enthusiast

Do you love the water cycle …

But always feel you’re on the outside looking in?

Go Hydrology 3.0 Explained

Fear not and join the club. And by the club I mean both Go Hydrology and everybody else out there under the sun. The water cycle is the great uniter that connect us all and that we are constantly trying to figure out. With Go Hydrology it’s less about the product than the process. I always say in life, if you enjoy the process (i.e. the water cycle) then you’re on the right path and everything else will fall in place. As for the product, I’ve always been a “get the project done” type person, and that’s probably what inspired me to build Go Hydrology from the start, and also refine it (and refine it) over time. The above video explains some recent restructuring on the blog with two big goals in mind: (1) increasing discoverability (i.e. for you to find what you want) and (2) turning it into a Florida wide watershed journal. Most of all we’re all in this together. So if you have any comments or ideas, let me know and we’ll figure it out. When it comes to the water cycle and our watersheds, we’re all on the same team.

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Quotable: “The water cycle is our passport to nature”

dry season

Dry season review
A holiday guide to the dry season

How did a relatively normal dry season …

appear to be so darn wet?

Months or holidays: Which interval do you prefer for comparing rain? The advantage of months is that they are equal units. The advantage of the holidays is it allows us to partition the dry season into its various acts (i.e. opening gate, cool season, green out, spring ebb, etc.). We were headed for a “dry” dry season until the April unexpectedly kicked in.

Answer: It’s not how much but when the rain fell. And I’m not talking summer rains or fall hurricanes, which together give us about 43 inches per year. And I’m not even talking the thirteen inches of dry season we recorded this year for the 6-month span between the start of November to the end of April, which for the record was about 1-2 inches above the normal dry season total. The big difference maker when it comes to the swamp batting back the descent into deep spring drought is April rainfall. No April rain means deep drought in the swamp. This year, as indicated by the yellow bar above, the swamp recorded a solid 6 inches of rain from the spring solstice (March 22) until now. That’s twice as much as the year before (2021) and three times as much as the year before that (2020) and just the right amount of rain necessary to keep standing water in the cypress domes and strands.

Did I mention we had a subpar summer? It didn’t matter thanks to the timely April rains!

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Question: What’s your favorite dry season holiday?

Case of the Missing May
Firelight Radio Presents

What happens when the calendar …

Misses a month?

Firelight Radio is available on Apple Podcasts and Podbean

Answer: That’s what happened this year when we went from February, March, April to … June(?)  That’s right, by all indications we missed May.  You see typically the start of the summer wet season starts around Memorial Day, or the last week of May.  This year the transition occurred at the end of April, making me wonder if we either leapt a month ahead or somehow missed the month of May.  The good news: Just when I thought May was a lost cause we seem to be in the midst of receiving our final blast of dry air before the 6-month humidity hammer of Florida’s endless summer starts to bear down.

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Puzzler: Why is October (i.e. oct = 8) the 10th month?

ecology

Swamp ladder, or step stool?
From highest to lowest

Big Cypress National Preserve is considered to be part of the greater Everglades ecosystem, but is also recognized as a distinct physiographic province even if the terms used to describe it — such as Western Everglades and swamp — fall short.

From highest (top) to lowest (bottom): mesic pines, marl prairie, outer edge of a cypress dome, interior pond apple center of a cypress dome,

What we do know is that you know it when you’re in it. In contrast to the Water Conservation Areas and Everglades National Park to the east which are dominated by the vast and perennially-flooded plain of peat-underlain ridges and sloughs (and dotted with tree islands), the Big Cypress consists of an interwoven mosaic of shorter hydroperiod wetlands. The Big Cypress also includes peat marshes, but is made visually distinct by its cypress forests – called domes and strands – which beneath their vertical apogee give way to orchid-hiding swamp forests and which at their fringes recede into a combination of open vistas of herbaceous marl prairies, fire-swept pinelands and scattered upland islands of hard-wood hammocks.

Its pattern of vegetation is commonly referred to as a mosaic and is a reflection of liliputian valleys and hills of the preserve’s flat and expansive wetland terrain. The difference between the preserve’s low-lying swamp and pineland high ground is only 3 feet.

I like to call it the swamp ladder. But maybe stepstool is more accurate.

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Safety Tip: Be careful on ladders of all sizes!

Mythical Big Cypress

Mythical watershed
How rain saved (and ruined) the swamp

One of the biggest myths of the swamp …

Is that it’s a watershed untouched by time.

A map of how water used to flow into and through the Big Cypress

So the story goes:

Unlike the highly-engineered Everglades management system that depends on a complex operation of gates, pumps, water treatment areas and regulation schedules …

The Big Cypress escaped from drainage unscathed.

A diagram showing how the modern “watershed myth” compares to the pre-drainage and actual present day condition (for the northeast corner of the Big Cypress)

The true(r) story:

Yes, the swamp gets most of its water straight from the sky, but it relies on upstream flows too. And here’s the big catch: The size of its upstream drainage (or watershed) has shrunk over time.

Or in other words, the swamp is (primarily) rain-driven because all the other “pre-drainage” sources of water got drained away or boxed out.

Timeline showing the history of drainage in the Big Cypress

The good news:

There are a lot worse fates that could befall an ecosystem than to become a watershed. And why cry over spilt milk of drainage past when there is a lot of work big and small that can be done to help achieve the goal of making the swamp the very best rain-driven work it can be.

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Quotable: “Myths that are believed in tend to become true.” Bernard Shaw

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Florida’s Water
And how we organize it, but can we save them?

Mention the name Florida and people probably instinctively think “the sunshine state.” But is there a state where water is more abundant and more central to how we think of the place? And I’m not talking the Atlantic or Gulf coasts, although you can add those in too. I’m talking about Florida’s 30 major basins, 5 major water management districts, 4 national estuary programs and 3 major aquifer systems.

Florida’s 30 major basins (it might be 29)

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Bobby Angel Campfire

Ballad of a Florida Panther
Engineer and panther forge a lasting bond

How to you make a road safe …

for the panthers (and other animals) that cross it?

Bobby Angel is a troubadour of the Nature Folk Movement (NFM)

In this Bobby Angel standard, the singer/songwriter recounts the story of a transportation engineer named Krista who was called in to help prevent panthers from getting hit by vehicles on the Tamiami Trail. It’s one of the swamp’s most scenic roads, but also one that crossing wildlife often finds itself in harms way. At some point the song veers off into fantasy with the transportation planner and panther escaping into nature and forging a relationship for life — but is it fantasy, really, or just how life should really be? To answer that question, you’ll have to watch the video and judge for yourself.

Be sure to stay on after the song to hear an interview with Bobby Angel about the song. Topics discussed include an exclusive inside scoop on the making of the smash hit, including never before revealed details on his first sighting of (what he thought initially) was a “large dog,” why they used to be more rare than seeing Ivory-billed woodpeckers, the movie magic of he videos opening scene, and how the use of silhouettes really make the video pop.

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