Hydrologic Holidays

Where Go Hydrology puts a water spin on major annual mile markers


United States of “Florida?”
Columbia was on the short list, too

Yes, Florida has a panhandle …

But usually its peninsula comes to mind first.

Talk about a bigger panhandle!

Christopher Columbus never stepped foot in Florida, (c. 1451 – 1506), let alone anywhere on the North American mainland. He got close in the Bahamas, and then sailed down to Cuba and Hispaniola which he promptly mistook for India, thus giving the natives a name that still sticks: Indians; even if the name “New India” never took hold.

In steps Amerigo Vespucci (c. 1454 – 1512). He took sail seven years after Columbus, was only a visitor (not a captain), and only saw the south American coast yet somehow it’s his name that made it on the map for the two continents that formed the “new found lands.”

Newfoundland, of course, was discovered Leif Ericson (c. 970 – c. 1020) who outflanked both Columbus and Vespucci by 500 years where he set up a Viking camp in Vinland to (among other things) grow grapes. Had only he landed in Florida he could have grown oranges instead. Although that’s not a hundred (or even fifty) percent true: Florida conspicuously devoid of oranges when Juan Ponce De Leon (c. 1474 – 1521) first set eyes on it in 1512, the same year that Vespucci died. The Puerto Rican governors interests lay not in citrus, but water -– and the “Fountain of Youth” to be exact.

He never found it, but he was looking in the right place given the bounty of Florida’s first order magnitude springs. And he also gave Florida its name, with the important caveat (as mapped above) that he wasn’t thinking “just about the peninsula” — he had the greater continental landmass in mind. It has a nice ring to it, and had a cartographer so long ago only penned the map differently, it may very well have been …

The United States of Florida!

weekly wave banner

Labor Day in Florida
Or should it be called a different holiday instead?

Labor Day is celebrated up North on the continent as the start of the fall season – sweater weather, brisk mornings and pumpkin spiced dishes of all sorts. Can you guess what holiday Labor Day better resembles in south Florida?

a. Valentines Day

b. Father’s Day

c. April Fools

d. Groundhog Day

e. Fourth of July

Answer: https://www.gohydrology.org

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hydrologic holidays

Florida Groundhog Day
Does the groundhog's shadow portend early fall?

South Florida doesn’t have a winter, therefore by definition it can’t have a Groundhog Day?

Or is it just hiding in plain sight instead?

Groundhog and cloud
Is that a cloud,
or a Giant Groundhog?

Groundhog Day on the continent is a celebration that celestial winter is half way done. By contrast in south Florida we are content to never let winter never end.

Our summer on the other hand is another story.

What continental transplant (me included) hasn’t at some point during Florida’s unending summer craved a little dose of fall air, especially come Labor Day when friends and relatives from “up state” and “off peninsula” are just beginning to rejoice in the first of many rounds of crisp autumnal air. Meanwhile down on the south peninsula we are left to sweat out another six weeks of Old Man Summer. It usually isn’t until Mid October that finally (and at long last) a cold front blasts through.

In my mind that’s what makes Labor Day South Florida’s Groundhog Day equivalent.

Will Summer end soon? Answer: See above

Only south Florida’s groundhog doesn’t emerge from ground to look for his shadow: It appears as giant cloud (see photo above) …

Casting a shadow on us instead.

Mid-summer milestone
Why pond apples never fall far from the tree

Hearing the ker-plunk of a pond apple …

Into the center of a dome is a rite of passage in the swamp.

Holding a pond apple in Big Cypress National Preserve
Pond apples are found in the center of cypress domes

It also indicates two things:

Summer is advancing (thus it falling) and water is deep (thus the ker-plunk).

And how do you measure the worth of a pond apple?

Floating pond apple in the center of a cypress dome
As seen looking towards the dome’s lighted center

What happens next after the ker-plunk?

The pond apple floats!

And starts to drift.

In the direction of sheet flow (until a log snags on a log).

Pond apples rarely drift far from the tree they fell.

Cool shade (of the fire tree)
How Poinciana tees portend major precipitation

Needle-shedding cypress trees …

Signal the start the winter dry season. But does the start of the summer wet season have a similar botanical clue?

A row of Royal Poinciana
trees in May

Answer, yes:

The Royal Poinciana tree unleashes a fiery display of flowers each year about mid May.

Streets literally light up in their presence.

But it’s a strange red luminescence in that it does not bring warmth, rather shade … a very deep and luxurious shade. All thanks to its copious canopy of outstretching branches and fern-like leaves.

Summer rains are a welcome reprieve

June rains reliably drop the flame-like flowers to the ground.

You’d almost expect them to sizzle (given their color).

Hydrologic hoax

Fools rain
Talk about a cruel hoax

Well I couldn’t have been more pleased …

To wake up to the sound of rain!

View through my windshield (in town) this morning

It was only when I got the edge of town …

And the rain stopped that I remembered it was April 1st.

I knew it was too good to be true!

But it was fun to imagine the swamp getting a timely spring soaker, even if just for a moment …

And then grin and bear the reality of another day of no rain.