wet season

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Intro - Rainy or wet season?

Why one is the convention and the other is right

By Robert V. Sobczak

Florida has two seasons, not four:

A summer wet season and a winter dry season.

wet and dry
Summer wet (left) and winter dry (right) seasons

I know what you’re thinking: What happened to fall and spring. It’s a sad story in Florida, but they actually got lost. They somehow slipped away in a tide and, although we’re not a hundred percent sure, we think they are swirling around in a gyre in the mid Atlantic or possibly even washed up on the European shoreline, possibly in Belgium or France.

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Joking aside, Florida also has its four celestial seasons. It’s just meteorologically we split the year in two: a six-month wet season from May to October and a six-month dry season from November to April. During the wet season, it rains almost every day, and usually in the form of afternoon thunderstorms. During the dry season, it still rains, but only periodically. Most days are sunny and cloudless, or less clouds. Technically, if you want to split water drops, the wet season doesn’t crank up to high gear until the later part of May and with the exception of tropical events, usually shuts down in early October. But for bookkeeping purposes, we lump May and October into the wet season.

wet and dry
Diagram depicting end of the wet season

Now here’s the tricky part: The term “wet” refers to the regular rains falling from the sky, not the sogginess factor of the water on the ground. Out in the Everglades and Big Cypress Swamp, the ground remains flooded with water for weeks (even months) after the “wet season” has ended.

For me, the term summer “rainy” season — not wet season — is a more accurate description of the season. However, climactically speaking, the term “wet and dry season” climate is the norm. So who am I to argue with the text books?

Final note: The Big Cypress Swamp on average receives around 42 inches of its 53 inch annual rainfall total during the 6-month wet season, or about 80 percent.

Wet or rainy, you get the point.

Recent blog posts

wet season

Holiday summer rain guide
Why months don't matter, or maybe they do

Often we think of summer rainfall …

In terms of a total or by months.

South Florida’s summer has 5 acts: (1) the spring prelude (Apr 1 – May 15), (2) the Early Wet Season (May 15 – Jul 4), (3) Mid Summer Doldrums (Jul 4 – Sep 1), (4) Fall Finale (Sep 1 to Oct 31), and (5) Encore Rains (Nov 1 – Dec 1)

But maybe a better way to frame it is by major holidays. The reason? For one, the rains that come “just before” and “just after” the official wet season (i.e. as defined from June through October) are just as important as the summer rain itself. Timely spring rains can boost the water table just before the summer rain machine turns on in the same way that November Soakers can prolong the summer high water stand. Look no further than 2020’s Eta (in November) as proof. I’m not saying to do away with months (yet), but I do believe holidays for nice mile markers for refining our Water Cycle IQ. BTW: The above chart is for south-Florida wide.

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Minority Opinion: Of course monthly rainfall matters! Here’s a closer look for monthly rains in Big Cypress National Preserve.

The swamp has received 3 months in a row of above average rain
water table

Rainy season begins on a dry note
As usual (and despite the April rains)

The start of one season …

Usually means the end of the season that came before.

History of drought in Big Cypress Nat’l Preserve

Well, hold your horses. While Memorial Day Weekend does mark the unofficial start of south Florida’s summer wet season, and to be sure from this point on we can expect the regular build up of afternoon clouds and thunderstorms — it may take a few couple weeks before the swamp starts filling up, or it could happen in a day. Until that time and until that day, the swamp is still in a state of drought. Not as deep as last year. But as you can see on the hydrograph above, it wasn’t until early June that the water table bottomed out. June is soaking in and filling up month. What we do know is that probably by July and definitely by August the swamp will get its water back.

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Meteorological Proverb: “All droughts end in flood”

wet season

Mystery: Summer wet season’s botanical clue?
Hint: Think country mouse, city mouse

The start of fall is easy to see in the swamp: Look no farther than the needles of the cypress trees turning brown then falling off. But does the swamp have a similar botanical clue that signals the start of the summer wet season?

a. Pond apples start to ripen and fall

b. Gumbo Limbo’s bark peals

c. Royal Poinciana’s bright orange flowers

d. Sawgrass blooms begin to appear

e. Brazilian Pepper berries turn red

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Click “Read More” to find the answer: “Nearly 97% of the world’s water is salty or otherwise undrinkable.” Overheard

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Summer’s two bookends?
And how they usher in tropical humid and crisp cool air

If summer is a shelf of books …

Memorial and Labor Day are its two bookends.

Available on Apple Podcasts and Podbean

Why?  Up on the continent, the end of summer and Labor Day go hand in hand.  Not that you need go immediately from a swim suit to wearing a scarf from one day to the next, but its pretty close — if not like clockwork.  Labor Day definitely favors on the summer side of the divide, serving as its de facto “last hurrah.”  Then there’s the case of Memorial Day down in south Florida.  Just as Labor Day may usher in a freshet of cooler and crisper air Up North, Memorial Day typically is the tropical (not polar) opposite: greeting south Floridians with a chinook of humid air at their door, suddenly giving urgency to the old expression — “Close the door you’re letting the air out!” — and leaving one to wonder if per chance he or she didn’t mistakenly put on a heavy down sweater instead of a T-Shirt.  Yes, it’s that warm and humid.  There’s another saying in Florida: “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.”  Between Memorial Day and a solid six weeks after Labor Day, the expression especially applies.  

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Little Known Fact: Just because it’s humid, doesn’t mean the shade isn’t cool. Says locals

weekly wave banner

Wet season tally (almost) in
Plus some other water cycle tidbits

Wet season rain varies geographically …

across south Florida. 

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Here’s a rainfall stumper

Can you guess which basin reliably gets the least amount of rain from May to October? a. Big Cypress Swamp b. Southwest Coast c. Miami-Dade d. Lake Okeechobee e. Water Conservation Area 3 f. a and c only

When will the first real cold front happen?

Other exciting water cycle news: (1) Has anyone every solved the mystery of the “high high” tide, and what about the “low low?” (2) Here’s a fresh look on the optimal stage for Lake Okeechobee. (3) Finally, definitive proof on when the afternoon rains precisely shut down.

As always, thanks for stopping by,

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