bobby angel

Art of the campfire song
And why first drafts are important

The only good thing about a first draft …

Is that it leads to a second.

Words and lyrics by Bobby Angel

Then the second leads to a fourth (I know what you’re thinking — what happened to the third? – I’m not sure) and eventually you have a campfire song. Not saying it’s the best, but around a campfire, it sounds about like it should, which is pretty good, and glad that I took a stab at draft number one.

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The Lyrics:

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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water table

State of the swamp
Putting May 2022 in perspective

Sheet flow rises …

And sheet flow falls.

Water depth hydrograph for Big Cypress Nat’l Preserve, using the center of the cypress dome as the zero vertical reference.

But can you see the big difference between this spring and the previous two? Okay, I know this is tough, because I’m making you read a hydrograph, but trust me, as soon as you crack the code, the hydrologic world will open up before your eyes. Focus on the three “red colored” drops in the water table over the past three years. The first (on the left) was the epic spring drydown of 2020, better know as the Year of the Moon Fish Wildfire. The water table dropped down fast and furiously from February until late May before springing up a week after it was too late (i.e. see the Moon Fish Fire). The following year (the middle drop) wasn’t as deep, and thanks to a well-timed early May rain, kept the deep spring drought monster at bay. Then comes the most recent year (i.e. the dip on the right). Without a doubt it’s still our dry time of the year, but a steady supply of April rains kept the cypress roots wet, and yes that means mushy peat, and yes that keeps wildfires if and when they strike (usually by lightning, sometimes by arson) in check.

If you still aren’t fully comprehending the top hydrograph, the second one in this post, also known as a calendar chart (or a raster chart), may very well help it all click, or as we say in the hydrologic inner circles — sink in. Can you see where the red arrow is currently pointing? That’s right, a red square. If we cross reference that to our ecological cross section underneath, that clearly indicates that the water table has dropped into the center of the cypress domes, but not to the point that the alligator holes aren’t still wet. Compare that back in time to many a year where the “red squares” disappeared. No dots at all on the chart above means the water table has dropped to the point that even the deepest gator holes and natural firebreaks have gone dry.

In sum, this wasn’t a wet spring, but it wasn’t a dry one either. The start of the wet season is under a week away.

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The Truth: “It isn’t a matter of if, but how, dry May will be in the swamp, and when (and how quickly) the wet season will start.” Bob says

Wildfire Cheatsheet
The balance between flood and drought

One goes up …

And the other goes down.

Cheatsheets explore the balance between “just enough” and “too much”

But neither goes away completely. This cheatsheet displays the interrelation and recent history of flood and fire in the Big Cypress and Everglades ecosystems. Or more correctly stated, it compares the dividing line(s) between flood and drought. Drought doesn’t happen all at once, or everywhere at the same time. Of note, the Big Cypress experiences deeper and longer incursions of drought.

Silver Spring Cheatsheet
The story of the falling baseline

A visiting tourist would be amazed …

At the discharge pumping up from Silver Spring.

Silver Spring Cheatsheet

Meanwhile, an old timer standing right next time him would be underwhelmed compared to what he saw (and remembered) from his youth. The reason? The area around the spring has been protected. But that area isn’t big enough to prevent depletion of headwater flows in the surrounding springshed through municipal groundwater pumping. I’ll leave it to the experts on this one (a combination of new and old timers), but to my knowledge groundwater pumping in and around the Ocala is the cause of the spring’s pre and post 2000 inflection point.