Water Cycle Served Fresh

Weather Drop

What May?
February, March, April ... June?

Usually May is that month …

That the swamp both bottoms out and bounces back.

The Everglades usually bottom out in May

Or did the water calendar jump straight to June? That’s what it feels like these past few days. A regular onslaught of afternoon rain showers — and I mean some real gully washers — are giving early May a decidedly beginning of June feel. It’s too early to tell if the pattern will persist, but if it does, then make a mental note: 2022 will be remembered as the Year Without a May.

Caption: Calendar chart showing daily rainfall in the Big Cypress Swamp from the mid 1998 to present. The black drops are Big Rain Days (i.e. when over an inch of rain fell in one day). We get a handful of those every year. Orange dots are days without rain which, as you can see, dominate from October through mid May.

Attention: The potential early start of the summer rainy pattern cannot be used as an excuse to forget Mother’s Day, Memorial Day or any other events or scheduled meetings that may occur this month.

rainfall

April Showers
Bring May sheet flow?

The end of the water year …

Usually ends on a dry note.

Monthly rainfall chart for Big Cypress National Preserve

Not this year. The long-term normal for the month is around 2 inches. This year we doubled that total, which much of it coming towards the end. The start of the new water year in May typically begins the deepest and driest part of the spring dry down. This year, the start of May feels more like the start of June. Afternoon showers have been the norm. Will they last? At this point the only thing I can say for sure is that the mosquitoes can’t be far behind.

Heaven or graveyard?
Or is it a graveyard?

While water control structures don’t live forever.

The good ones do go to Hydraulic Heaven.

Can you see the living water control structure in the background? It’s the S-3

Where exactly is hydraulic heaven? It’s located in John Stretch Park in Hendry County just up against the levee on the south side of Lake Okeechobee. I happened upon the park by accident, as did perhaps these relic water management pumps. The more usual fate for old parts big and small is to end up being scrapped or going to the junk yard. What good fortune factored helping these particular pumps making it to hydraulic heaven is anyone’s guess. Probably luck. Or maybe they were especially good structures at keeping everyone safe from flooding, or somehow else saving the day, and so were rewarded by being put on display in John Stretch Park for eternity. Well, maybe not eternity. Several years later I returned to the park. The paint that looks so shiny in these photos had long since faded and started to cracked. As an engineer by training, it made me think about my own mortality. No matter how useful we are in our day, we all have a shelf life.

Is it a graveyard or a hydraulic heaven? What I can say is it’s only a park an engineer could love.

Swamp Geology
Out of sight out of mind?

When it comes to geology …

It may be last on the swamp check off list.

wri99_4213_reese

By check off list, I mean what tourists come to see — with alligators being at the top. I’ve heard it said that some four out of five people visit to the swamp to see an alligator. As interesting as they are to see, they are oddly not present in the geology of the swamp. Even odder, as old as the alligators would have you believe the place to be, the swamp ecosystem is actually quite young, just a few thousand years old. Native American tribes inhabited Florida before the Everglades or the Big Cypress swamp existing. So there are no alligator bones in the geology, it’s all marine limestone, about 3 miles worth underlying the swamp with the upper 50-100 feet forming the Gray Limestone Aquifer. Unlike the Biscayne Aquifer to the east, the Graystone Aquifer isn’t as permeable nor as intensely pumped. With regard to the later, I think that alligators are happy about that.