When the lake rose high

Here’s a comparison of current Lake O stage …

Relative to notable high-water years of the recent past.

This graph provides an comparison of current stage in Lake Okeechobee relative to several high-water years of note of the recent past.  Notice how 2004, 2008 and 2012 were at a low level relatively late in the summer (until the storms struck.)

Everyone remembers the epic (and rapid) rise following Fay.

But the one that sticks in my mind is the even higher rise that occurred in 2004 following the trifecta of Charley, Frances and Jeanne.  The lake surface rose 6 feet in a 12 week span as a result.  The year 1998 jumps out too, not only because of its high height (over 18 ft mean sea level) but also the timing of its rise — spring not summer — as a result of an especially strong El Niño that occurred that year.  The Lake stayed high through the following year (2005), too, but since then — other than the year of Fay (2008) — Lake stage largely stayed on the low side of the historic range. (view lake history)

Last year (2013) saw the lake climb into the higher range again, partly a result of heavy spring rains and partly from the spike in lake stage from Hurricane Isaac in 2012.  The Caloosahatchee and St Lucie saw their biggest influx of estuarine-disrupting lake water since 2005 as a result.

I’m not predicting that the lake will rise high again this year, but it is worth noting that current lake stage is virtually identical to June 2004 and a strengthening El Niño is predicted for later this year.

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