Tale of the pesky cloud

Ever walk around all day (or week) …

With a cloud over your head?

And then be baffled by the blue sky afterwards, leaving you to wonder if it was even there at all.

The weather and how it affects us is an elusive force.

conversations with water

Conversations with water
Getting to the bottom of things

Me: “Hey water, what’s going on?”

Water: no response

Water’s a hell of a listener

Me: “I know how you feel. Man, it’s been one of those days for me, too. What can you do but shake your head and try to forget about it?”

Water: no response

Me: “Remember that time when it was just me and you out there, under the sun and sky and then the night came and it was the stars instead, everything just quiet and peaceful like we didn’t have a care in the world?”

Water: no response

Just a good conversationalist in general

Me: “Yeah, they were good times, alright. Good times.”

Water: no response

Me: “Lots of good times ahead, too. You’ve got to believe that.  You’ve got to.”

Water: no response

Me: “Thanks for being there … and listening. I definitely feel a lot better.”

Water: No response

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Swamp’s Summer Bell Tower
Hint: You have to very close to hear it

Can you guess what sound signals the start of the swamp’s annual”peak water” season?

a. squawk of the red-shoulder hawk

b. rolling thunder reverberating off tall cypress

c. the kerplunk of a pond apple in a cypress dome

d. non-stop constant din of air conditioners

e. croak of the bullfrog 


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Mythical Big Cypress

Big Cypress Watershed
Or is the term "mosaic" a better descriptor?

Animated cross section of the rise and fall of the water table in Big Cypress National Preserve
Swamp water cycle in motion

In the modern era, we’ve come to know the Big Cypress as a watershed. But what if I were to tell you, use of that term for the Big Cypress is as new as the preserve? Yes, that’s right, the day Big Cypress National Preserve was established in 1974, it was dubbed a watershed – it’s own watershed, a watershed separate from the Everglades and the Lake – and has been thought of in that pristine, almost utopian way, ever since. But the truth is the Big Cypress is only a watershed because its original “other sources” of water were drained away, or diverted.

Listen to Audio Introduction

What were those sources? Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades definitely flowed into the swamp. If you don’t believe me, just read the Buckingham Report from 1848. And prior to the destruction of the Ft. Thompson Falls and drainage of the Upper Caloosahatchee Basin (Lake Flirt, Lake Bonnet and Lake Hicpochee), the swamp was fed water through groundwater seeps from the Immokalee Rise.

Before, Current and Future Restored Maps of the Big Cypress Swamp
The rainfed swamp we know today was once fed by upstream water sources

So yes, in a way the Big Cypress we know today is a rainfall-sustained ruins of a pre-drainage cathedral of of headwater flows, now largely collapsed (by drainage). That doesn’t make the swamp any less special. In fact it makes it more interesting than we knew. And it also points to our need to steward water. The sky provides the Big Cypress with a bounty of water. But it needs help, our help, to make sure its clean, connected to its remnant headwaters where possible, and help it spread out.

And the swamp needs fire, too. Every square inch of flora and fauna in the swamp depends on a regular return interval and dosage of flood and fire. Those are the two forces that give the swamp its distinctive mosaic of habitats. The cypress may look “old as the hills” but they are actually holes — although it is incorrect to call it a homogenous swamp.

More correctly stated, it’s a malleable swampy mosaic that’s semi-fixed in time and space. Or as we like to say around here:

So goes flood and fire, so goes the swamp.

“Raining Cats and Dogs?”
Why it's time to retire the saying

When big downpours let loose …

It’s often said “it’s raining cats and dogs.”

Can you see the ___________ (correct answer)?

But that adage dates back to aegis of the industrial revolution in Europe when literally, after large rainfall events, stray cats and dogs ended up dead in the gutter.

Or at least that’s one explanation.

My proposal:

Why rake up old graves? Let’s let those poor strays rest in peace and replace that sad saying with an animal event that more accurately (and humanely) describes south Florida’s major weather events.

A downpour as seen through a windshield

In quiz format, here’s my proposal:

Can you guess what major animal event best describes the rain storms in south Florida? (a) school of fish, (b) swarm of gnats, (c) stampede of horses, (d) 37-year cicada hatch, or (e) a super colony of wading birds?

Answer: https://www.gohydrology.org

Also check out recent rainfall numbers in The Water Room

Blog: https://www.gohydrology.org/water-room

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Reputations are earned
They don't call it "The Sunshine State" for nothing

What’s the best way to …

Break Florida into bite-size chunks?

Drought levels vary across the state, but region-by-region they are all pretty close to their long-term normal level for early April. State-wide May is the driest time of year.

If you’re a splitter, you’d probably go the county route.

That adds up to 67 last time I made count.

Or if you’re a lumper, not a splitter …

Maybe panhandle, central peninsula and south peninsula. And of course let’s not forget the keys.

Fifty five inches of rain and 250 days of sun

Read more

Paradox in the middle
And how its resolved on the ground

At first glance,

Cypress domes may look like a monoculture of sorts.

Can you spot the “hole”
at the apex of the cypress
dome in the foreground?

Until you get on the ground,

Get your feet wet and walk to the center spot.

Here’s a ground view
of that exact spot!

That’s where you’ll find a treasure trove …

Of air plants hanging from Lilliputian trees.

And where cypress trees are weirdly the exception, not the norm.