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Intro - Swamp words unveiled

The "unofficial guide" to how water is defined

By Robert V. Sobczak

You know what when you see it ...

But how do we define it, especially a word like "thalweg?"

definitions may vary
We are constantly tweaking our definitions

That's where the Swamp Dictionary comes in handy. They are words you won't find on the internet (granted, even though this journal is there), and there's a good chance you won't find them on your bookshelf. Necessity being the mother of invention, the Swamp Dictionary was born.

Recent Words

How To: Detect a Cold Front
Fine art of forecasting good weather

We’re still waiting for our first official cold front …

But no reason to get worried quite yet.

This histogram shows the frequency that the first official cold front (i.e. two consecutive nightly lows below 60° F) arrives to Naples Florida, as based on the historical record from 1941 to present.

By “official” cold front, I’m going by Morton D. Winsberg’s definition in his seminal book Florida Weather. It’s a book that I’ve read over and over again. I call it a rereadable. Keep in mind Winsberg’s definition doesn’t count just drier air, an end to the summer rains or slightly cooler morning and evening temperatures. For the cold front to be “official” it needs to be a true blue slug of continental air that sends nighttime lows plunging under 60° F for two days in a row. Or in other words, it will inspire you to wear long sleeves, if not a scarf. And yes, if you’re a year-rounder who’s endured a full summer, it will have you celebrating, too.

As for when they arrive, it varies from year to year. Some years we get what I call an abnormally early teaser front (i.e. 2000) in early October, but most years (as shown by the distribution curve above) our first real dose of cold air doesn’t arrive until a week or two on either side of Halloween. Then there’s the year’s we have to wallow all the way to the end of November to get our official dose (i.e. 2013, 2020).

Thus my prediction: I’m going to be conservative and say by Thanksgiving it will have arrived (unless it’s another 1986 – see chart above).


Hydrologic holidays
Holidays redefined to fit into the water cycle

Behind every regular holiday …

Is a water-cycle spin on the day’s events.

Same great holidays with a water-cycle spin

A hydrologic holiday doesn’t replace the old meaning of the term. For example, Groundhog Day is still Groundhog Day, especially if you live up north. But more properly conceived for the water cycle of south Florida, Groundhog Day is better understood as occurring on Labor Day. The first Monday of September, not the second day of February, signals six more weeks of grueling heat and humidity in south Florida.

Other examples include shifting New Years to May 1st to coincide the annual calendar with the start of the first month of the wet season, coopting St. Patrick’s Day as the green out of the cypress trees, and use of Memorial Day as the official start of the summer afternoon rains.

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Question: Is there a water holiday, and do you think it will ever rival Groundhog’s day?

Does every holiday have a water-cycle spin? Some more than others to be sure, but without a doubt there’s something to be said about the weather patterns and water cycle happenings that occur on or around that date. The holidays and their hydrologic counterparts are convenient milestones to tune into the natural world around us.

Florida Groundhog Day occurs on Labor Day

Here’s a list of some of the major water holidays:

  • May 1st – Start of the water year
  • Memorial Day – Start of the summer afternoon rains
  • July 4th – Start of the mid summer lull
  • Labor Day – Florida Ground hog day (6 more weeks of summer)
  • Columbus Day – End of the summer afternoon rains
  • Halloween – Last day of the 6-month wet season
  • Veterans Day – Clear skies of the dry season ahead
  • Thanksgiving – A time to be thankful for the water cycle
  • January 1st – Start of the calendar year
  • MLK Day – Water retreats to the cypress domes
  • Groundhog Day – see Labor Day
  • Valentines Day – A day to profess our love for water
  • St. Patricks Day – Green out of the cypress trees
  • April Fools – Start of spring drought season in the swamp

Most of all, hydrologic holidays are fun. Who doesn’t love and look forward to a holiday or the holiday season? Adding water to the mix just makes them all the better.


Deep Lake
Or is it only pond worthy?

By most metrics,

Deep Lake should be called a pond.

Assorted views of Deep Lake

Considering that it’s only 300 feet across …

And its circumference is 300 feet less a quarter mile, that sounds more like a pond. But if you consider that its open pool is five times deeper than Lake Okeechobee’s 20-ft depth, and – here’s the icing on the cake – that it isn’t enclosed by a 35-ft tall levee, thus allowing its waters to naturally overflow into the swamp.

By definition, that sounds like a lake to me.