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Did summer just end?
Just when it was getting interesting

It was shaping up to be a subpar summer …

And then September kicked into high gear.

The swamp finally peaks, but for how long?

Back to back weeks pushed the swamp to its annual peak.

Then came the recent front of dry air?

Overnight the rain machine shut down.

Or is there still time for it to rev back up?

A flooded marl prairie with periphyton

I‘m never one to complain about the start of fall, but seriously – summer was finally starting to get interesting. It’s good to see the swamp’s sheet of water spreading out.

temperature check

Summer’s final stretch
And why fall isn't here yet

Celestial fall officially started …

on September 21st.

Comparison of night and day time temperatures in Naples, Florida to farther “Up North”

But in south Florida,

it’s still a waiting game before autumn starts to kick in.

Daytime highs are still in the high 80s and night time lows are still above 70 degrees.

According the book Florida Winter, fall in Florida officially commences with the onset on two consecutive nights that drop below 60 degrees. The animated map below shows that typically happens around the fourth month of November for south Florida.

Animation of when fall “typically” arrives to the Florida peninsula

If that seems like a long wait,

Not to worry: Fall doesn’t happen in one fell swoop.

We get plenty of signs along the way.

fall

Signs of fall
Fall arrives in many ways, just not temperatures

Signs of fall in the swamp are subtle,

But they are there if you know where to look.

Early October:
Resurrection fern shrinks
to shriveled state indicating
less rain
Late October:
Dwarf cypress prairie
become needle bare indicating
less daylight hours
Early November:
Cold water seeps into boots
indicating lower air temperatures
Late November:
The cypress-pine
swamp mosaic really
starts to “pop”

Can you think of others?

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