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?

water cycle

Late March Update
Spring drought season begins

Not that there’s a major test tomorrow …

But the cheatsheets have been updated.

March is peak tourist season in the swamp and also the start of the spring drought season, as seen at H.P Williams Wayside Park near Turner River

That means if a colleague asks you a question about where the water is at, you can quickly refer to these sheets and present yourself as an expert, or hone the expertise you already have. So, what’s the latest? The big story is this: South Florida is at the front door of its two-month spring drought period. The Big Cypress is especially prone to drought because, unlike the Everglades that has a higher proportion of low-lying sloughs, the water table tends to drop deeper and longer below the cypress tree roots. Here’s a comparison of drought levels in the Everglades and Big Cypress.

Rainfall: Did you know that Water Year 2022 is entering it’s final month? In south Florida, the water year runs from May 1st to April 30th. With a month to go, South Florida wide rainfall has nudged up into the “normal range” of 43 to 51 inches per year. South Florida is predictably drier than central Florida, and especially the panhandle which is sopping wet.

Kissimmee-Okeechobee-Everglades: Okay, this is where it starts getting complicated. Why? Pumps, gates, regulation schedules. Do I need to say anymore? Fortunately, the cheatsheets are here to help you navigate it. In a nutshell, the Kissimmee got some rain, as indicated by releases from the headwaters near Lake Toho. Further down in Lake Okeechobee, water levels are tracking at the long-time (i.e. 25-year) year normal for late March. Water releases through the S-79 have been steady at around 2,000 cfs, which is in the preferred estuarine window as defined by Bob Chamberlain. Further down in the Everglades, water levels are highest in Everglades National Park, and also above average in Water Conservation Areas 1 and 2, but below normal for this year in Water Conservation Area 3A.

In sum, people always ask me: “Bob, is there a single index well we can monitor to tell use everything we need to know?” Answer: Unfortunately not. The good news is there are the cheatsheets.

Wildfire Cheatsheet
The balance between flood and drought

One goes up …

And the other goes down.

Cheatsheets explore the balance between “just enough” and “too much”

But neither goes away completely. This cheatsheet displays the interrelation and recent history of flood and fire in the Big Cypress and Everglades ecosystems. Or more correctly stated, it compares the dividing line(s) between flood and drought. Drought doesn’t happen all at once, or everywhere at the same time. Of note, the Big Cypress experiences deeper and longer incursions of drought.

wave

Art of the cheat sheet
And how they make you smarter

The Everglades is hard to understand …

It’s both big and complex.

Cheat sheets are good study guides

That’s where a few well-rendered “cheat sheets” come in handy. And just to get one misconception out of the way: Cheat sheets aren’t cheating. “Study sheets” is probably the better term. Back in my school days, I used to make them all the time in a run up to a test. The goal: Pack as much information as you can on one page in an organized way. People often ask me: “Bob, I love your blog but how do I find the charts.” Question received and now answered: In the cheat sheets. I’ll be updating them weekly.