You know we’ve finally hit the heart of the wet season …
When the pinelands are shallowly flooded.
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.
That makes this year drier (i.e. less wet) than the drought summer of 2000
At first glance, the water table looks simple.
You can touch it with your finger and sure enough it’s wet.
The difficulty lies in understanding where it’s at relative to the suite of hydro-ecological and statistical metrics we measure it by. Case in point is Water Conservation Area 3A in the Everglades. Statistically, it’s a foot below where it normally is for late August and three feet below its high-water crest following Eta. Ecologically, water depth in the sloughs are about 1.75 feet deep but the tree islands are still dry.
That’s relatively rare for WCA3A this late in the summer.
The beauty of this chart is it allows us to see the full water history of Big Cypress National Preserve. The caveat is that it’s only a single gage. And this may even be a bigger one: It doesn’t tell us how water changed in the run up to the preserve being formed, and especially after the Tamiami Trail in the 1930. The trail not only paved the way for connecting the two coasts, it also became the de facto backbone for draining the swamp. Fifty years later the Preserve was established, and that’s when our hydrologic record keeping begins, too.
The biggest trend in my eye from the graph above is the longer summer wet seasons. That’s not because we’re getting more rain, but because we’re doing a better job of spreading the water out. The biggest shift for the Preserve occurred in the early 1990s after Alligator Alley and Turner River Road were replumbed to divert less water. This summer’s taken a little longer to start up, in part thanks to a deeper than usual spring drought. But the bigger trend is that it’s wetter now than when the Preserve was established (in 1974) but not as wet as before the Tamiami Trail went in.
So it’s a partial story, but pretty interesting (and revealing).
Data is good.