Pine high ground

High and dry in the pines
September is (usually) peak season in the swamp

You know we’ve finally hit the heart of the wet season …

When the pinelands are shallowly flooded.

Bar chart showing hydroperiod (i.e. duration of flooding) in the pines of Big Cypress National Preserve over the past 30 years.

Over the course of an average year, we can usually count on the hydric pines going under for a good 4 months of the summer/fall period and the higher-perched mesic pines getting inundated for about a month.

And usually September is reliably our peak water season.

Except this year.

The water table is inching up but still below the pine trunks.

Hydric pines during wetter times

That makes this year drier (i.e. less wet) than the drought summer of 2000

Soggy State
It was a soggy year for the Sunshine State

Normally, May and November …

Are the the great state of Florida’s driest months.

Animated map of drought in south Florida

Except not this year.

The reason? Tropical Storm Eta walloped the state with rain in November. Meanwhile, Northern Florida has been wetter than normal thanks to ample spring rains from continental fronts. Most of those fronts didn’t make it to south Florida, but that didn’t offset the wetter than average spring north of the Lake.

Statewide drought levels currently, a month ago and a year ago

What’s ahead?

With the afternoon clouds starting to return to much of the state, the summer soggy season can’t be far away.

Florida wide drought level (red line) compared to the long-term average (dotted white line)

In summary, it’s been a pretty wet run for the Sunshine State.

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Batteries not included

How do you measure wetness in the swamp?

Answer: The same way you measure dryness.

Is the swamp wet or dry? How about both.

It’s called the Swamp-O-Meter.

Currently, the Swamp-O-Meter is showing the domes, strands, pond apple forests, marsh and gator holes to be flooded. From a dryness standpoint, that means the coveted “wildland fire breaks” are flooded. That helps contain and steer the wildland fire in the preferred spots when it occurs.

One (or many) droughts?

When it comes to meteorologic drought …

South Florida is in the same boat.

Notice how the swamp dropped the deepest
during the drought, and jumped the quickest
with the return of the rains

But drought manifests itself differently …

On the ground from one watershed to another.

Take for instance the Big Cypress.

It’s water table drops much deeper and longer below ground than the adjacent Everglades.

Keeping the winter water table up goes hand in hand

With restoring the swamp’s summer sheet flow regimes.

Dry Season Polka

Polka music was never my favorite growing up,

Even though I was around it a fair amount.

Much like this song,
I’m glad the drought is over

The same can be said for drought now that I’m an adult.

tidal waters

“Drought-fueled” flood?

Drought and flood are usually …

Two opposite extremes.

The unusual flooding, as seen looking south
of the Tamiami Trail near Everglades City

Not this year:

Thanks in part to the depth of the drought …

A strong south wind pushed a high tide high into what is normally freshwater marsh.

Saltwater invasion

Here’s a hydrograph comparing three stations along the Tamiami Trail …

In the area that we observed the unusual “wet season” like flooding in the coastal marsh south of Tamiami Trail in the Ten Thousand Islands area.

About the chart above: Notice how the two inland stations — BCA8 (Turner River) and BCA7 (Turner River Canal) — have steadily dropped throughout the dry season — whereas the station at Bridge 71 (red dot and line) had an unusual rise during April that does not seem to correlate with any significant rainfall during the same period.

As for the source of the water:

If the strong south wind didn’t already make it abundantly clear …

A fish kill of talapia in in a pool at the southern end of Birdon Road left little doubt.

They are freshwater fish and cannot tolerate salt.