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Intro - Sunshine or Rain State?

By Robert V. Sobczak

South Florida is a bipolar ...

When it comes to it's annual rain cycle.

The reason?

Four fifths of its five feet of rain fall in the six month summer season. Five feet of rain sounds like a lot, until you consider that half the year only averages 2 inches or less per month. Or in other words: Meteorologic drought is hardwired into the annual cycle.

Listen to the Audio Introduction

One day of big rain can be a game changer that lasts for many months.

In the same way, multiple months of no rain can dry everything out. At the risk of being Captain Obvious, it's at the times of deepest drought we most regret shunting the wet season bounty of rain to tide.

Recent Rain Charts

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7-Day National Rain Total

Quick Forecast

Courtesy of SFWMD and NOAA

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Florida Radar

Narrative Forecast

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Day 2

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Day 4

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Day 6

Day 4

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Recent Blog Posts

temperature check

High humidity blues
And why shade matters

Temperatures don’t rise as high in south Florida …

As they in the Great American Southwest.

Let’s just say both are hot in their own way

But the humidity is off the charts. Actually, technically speaking, it’s still on the chart. But did anybody else notice this week how the wave of heat hits you the moment you open the door. The thing about summer in south Florida — it’s so thick, it almost feels like you’re wearing a sweater, even though you’re only in short sleeves. The caveat is you better keep a sweater handy because it can get cool in the air conditioning inside.

Back to the comparison between Naples and Arizona on the heat index scale. There’s an old wise tale about how in Arizona, yes it’s hot — but its a dry heat, thus its cool(er) in the shade — in contrast to Florida that is so humid that the shade brings no reprieve. This just in: Shade matters in Florida. In fact, that’s exactly how you can spot a native (or a long-time year rounder) in a crowd. All the tourists will be standing int he sun, but the salty and seasoned old-timer will be predictably standing in the sand, no matter how small the sliver. Shade isn’t as cool as AC, but it may be Florida’s only sweater-free zone come summertime.

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Swamp Rules: Count on summer nighttime lows to stay at or above 70° F all summer long. That doesn’t mean it can’t get shivery cold after a June downpour.

summer

Eternal summer
The season that refuses to end

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Question: We know Florida has 1,350 miles of coastline, but is that shorter or longer than its endless summer?

Most tourist naturally assume:

Doesn’t summer in Florida last year-round?

Summer view at Naples Beach, Florida

While many a New England town has to wait around until the fourth of July for summer weather to fully take hold, only to watch it rapidly slip away in the weeks following Labor Day, summer in Florida is a solid six month affair.

To quote some of the locals: “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.” Anyone visiting Florida is astounded by the crush of super-heated dense air, thus giving rise to the maxim that, unlike the dry heat of the American Southwest where the shade offers reliably reprieve from the midday sun, shade does you no good in the Florida summer sun.

I implore you: Please do not listen to them. Among natives: the common wisdom is the complete opposite, to the point that you can usually tell a native Floridians in a crowd because they are the only ones standing in the shade. The shade makes as huge a difference as taking a dip in a pool or the Gulf or Atlantic coast.

Driving in a summer afternoon storm

Summer has personally grown on me over the years. The more I live in Florida, the more my blood has thinned. Or is it that I’m better at staying away from direct midday sun and finding the slivers of shade.

In a way I pity the winter tourists. They completely miss out on Florida’s afternoon summer storms. These events are truly something to behold, three-dimensional full body experience. Even better is the cool downbursts of air they produce, and sometimes even hail-sized raindrops that only melted minutes before they splash ice cold on your skin or down on the ground. Post storm, temperatures are easily a solid 10 degrees cooler, leaving you to ponder if it’s even summer at all.

Long live Florida’s endless summers, they get longer and more pleasant every year.

summer

How To: Read a Rain Chart
I get it, charts can be boring (without narration)

Not that I’m a wildly dynamic speaker …

Nor are rain charts especially charismatic.

Bob has a one-on-one conversation with a rain chart

But combine the two together and I think you get, well — I think you’ll see the result. At the heart of the issue is what I’ve been told so many times: “Bob, you make a splendid rain chart, but most people don’t know how to read them.” And so my journey began, hours after hours, years upon years, in the quest to make the perfect rain chart. My conclusion: I think the only way to give a rain chart its due is to allow it to talk, and speak for itself. Okay, I’ll admit. I had to add the voice. And yes, I had to juice up the charts a bit (some would say with too many colors). Just don’t say I didn’t try.

Comparison of dry season rainfall, from 1970 to present. Cool color-coded bars indicate wet winters and warm color-coded bars indicate drier than normal winter.

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#Overheard: South Florida’s water year starts on May 1st, but the wet season doesn’t officially kick in until around May 20th.

Click “Read More” to see all the hydrographs!

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dry season

Dry season review
A holiday guide to the dry season

How did a relatively normal dry season …

appear to be so darn wet?

Months or holidays: Which interval do you prefer for comparing rain? The advantage of months is that they are equal units. The advantage of the holidays is it allows us to partition the dry season into its various acts (i.e. opening gate, cool season, green out, spring ebb, etc.). We were headed for a “dry” dry season until the April unexpectedly kicked in.

Answer: It’s not how much but when the rain fell. And I’m not talking summer rains or fall hurricanes, which together give us about 43 inches per year. And I’m not even talking the thirteen inches of dry season we recorded this year for the 6-month span between the start of November to the end of April, which for the record was about 1-2 inches above the normal dry season total. The big difference maker when it comes to the swamp batting back the descent into deep spring drought is April rainfall. No April rain means deep drought in the swamp. This year, as indicated by the yellow bar above, the swamp recorded a solid 6 inches of rain from the spring solstice (March 22) until now. That’s twice as much as the year before (2021) and three times as much as the year before that (2020) and just the right amount of rain necessary to keep standing water in the cypress domes and strands.

Did I mention we had a subpar summer? It didn’t matter thanks to the timely April rains!

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Question: What’s your favorite dry season holiday?

Case of the Missing May
Firelight Radio Presents

What happens when the calendar …

Misses a month?

Firelight Radio is available on Apple Podcasts and Podbean

Answer: That’s what happened this year when we went from February, March, April to … June(?)  That’s right, by all indications we missed May.  You see typically the start of the summer wet season starts around Memorial Day, or the last week of May.  This year the transition occurred at the end of April, making me wonder if we either leapt a month ahead or somehow missed the month of May.  The good news: Just when I thought May was a lost cause we seem to be in the midst of receiving our final blast of dry air before the 6-month humidity hammer of Florida’s endless summer starts to bear down.

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Puzzler: Why is October (i.e. oct = 8) the 10th month?