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

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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Final tally is (almost) in
Counting continues until Halloween

South Florida has one wet season …

But the final tallies vary geographically.

Comparison of wet season rain by basin

For example, Lake Okeechobee usually gets the lowest amount of wet season rain, around 33 inches. Compare that to the Lower East Coast (Miami), Big Cypress and Southwest Coast that averages 43 inches of wet season rain. South Florida Wide, the number falls somewhere in between at around 38 inches. For water drop counting purposes, we compute wet season rain for the six-month period from the start of May to the end of October. Thus, it’s too early to call the final tally yet, but we are pretty close so it’s worth taking a look. As stands, we’re a little below the typical average. That could still yet change, as the clouds have until Halloween to get their final drops in.

BTW: October is better understood as a transition month between the wet and dry season, but we lump its entirety into the wet season rainfall tally for book keeping purposes, and to be consistent from year to year.

wet season

Swamp’s “Old Faithful”
Almost like clockwork

No, you can’t set your watch to them …

And some days it doesn’t rain at all.

It doesn’t rain all day, but summer is predictably rainy

But over the long haul, south Florida’s wet season is pretty predictable with June, July, August and September being its four core months.

That makes those afternoon clouds “Old Faithful” in my book!

Slow-filling swamp?
Swamp fills slow for a second year in a row

Remember the years the swamp filled up early …

And instantly with a single storm?

This domes still waiting for its water

This year doesn’t appear to be one of them.

Water is soaking in for sure, and we’ve had our fair share of afternoon downpours, but the water table is lagging behind the pace of its normal summer rise.

Case in point:

I was greeted by a small puddle on a recent trip into the heart of a cypress dome. Normally by this time of year, late July, the entirety of the center of the dome is shin to knee deep.

Preservewide, current water stage (blue line) is a half foot lower than normal levels (dotted white line) for late July

That doesn’t mean we aren’t one big storm away, or the regular regime of afternoon storms doesn’t eventually fill everything up. The good news: domes to the south are filling up a little quicker than farther north.

And Pinelands, if you’re listening:

You should still be prepared to get your feet wet.

Calendar chart showing the history of flooding in Big Cypress Nat’l Preserve, 1992 to present

But it does cluster this year with that subset of slow-filling years, including the summer of 1998 (when I first arrived), 2004, 2015 and 2020.

Or in other words, make it two in a row.

Read more

Waiting for the rain
It's like a flip of the switch

Typically it isn’t until Memorial Day …

That the summer wet season rains reliably start.

Chart showing where we are now
and when we can expect the reliable
summer rains to start

That doesn’t mean we may not get some rains here and there,

And who knows, maybe even a good few consecutive days.

But more than likely reliable rain is a good 6-8 weeks away.