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

Hydrology strikes twice

No, lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place,

But sometimes hydrology does.

The blue and red lines show
a comparison of this year’s
to last year’s surface water
stage in the swamp

Take for example the early December height of the water table.

It’s at an all-time December low, looking back as far as our records go.

Historical calendar showing the location
of the wetting front relative to major ecological
habitats in the swamp, 1991 to present.

Even more incredible still:

It matches the same record December low from last year.

Talk about hydrology striking twice in a row!

Wet season, interrupted

Some years, the wetting front splashes up …

Into the pines for the better part of a half year.

A look back over the years
at how long (in months) the pine
high ground got wet

This year we were half off that mark.

I won’t call it a “dry summer” because I ruined

Another pair of boots (thanks to water rot.)

Such is life for a hydrologist in a swamp.

Cloud-making machine?

Florida’s clouds rank high on its list of remarkable natural features,

Even if they are only emphemerally there.

Meteorologists wish it were that easy!

But couldn’t you say the same thing for the Florida at large?

In geological time, the peninsula has been saltwater submerged over 95 percent of the time.  What looks like steady state is constantly in flux.

Of course timing is everything:

In order to see a really great Florida cloud you’ve got to be there.