Feb 27, 2017

Hydrology like it's 2016

Going by water years and watersheds ...

Sure does simplify the hydrologic math.

Yes, it's 2017, but in terms of
the 2016 water year we still have
two months left

But somewhere along the line ...

Somebody had the bright idea of adding jurisdictional lines and calendar years.


How could something that is so simple have become so complex?

Feb 26, 2017

Looking upriver (and back in time)

Here's the view of the Caloosahatchee River ...

Looking upriver from the bridge at LaBelle.

Can you see Ft. Thompson Falls?

Today it is the dredged and widened Okeechobee Waterway, navigable all the way to Lake Okeechobee.  Prior to drainage, however, the channel was narrower, oxbowed, and stopped well short of that mark;

About two miles upriver at Ft. Thompson Falls to be exact.


The falls were the natural dam the flooded Lake Flirt and Bonnet.

Feb 24, 2017

Lake of decades

Here's a look at the rise and fall ...

Of Lake Okeechobee over the decades.

Animated annual hydrograph of stage in Lake Okeechobee, in feet above sea level, as drawn between the 25th and 75th percentiles.

The 80s and 90s were higher.

That cause the interior littoral vegetation to degrade.


Then the 2000s took a turn downward into drought,

But also saw the condition of the interior perimeter wetlands improve.

Calendar chart showing stage in Lake Okeechobee, from 1970 to present.  Cool colors represent higher water stage and warmer colors lower water

The cycle of drought and flood has sort of moderated since 2010s.

That's in part due to the new regulation schedule to protect the levee while it's being rebuilt (i.e. fortified).

Feb 23, 2017

Dropping lake in action

Lake levels are in the desired range ...

About 8 feet lower than the level it historically overflowed its banks south.

This hydrograph shows the stage of Lake Okeechobee over the past two years.  The background color-coding indicates the hydro-eco-operational thresholds and the background shading shows the long-term historical statistics, from 1993 to present.  The dotted white line is the long-term median stage over the same time period.
In more modern terms,

We're about 1 foot below the normal late February stage ...


But still in the desired range because the wetting front is within the littoral zone.

Feb 22, 2017

Subsidence in action

South of the Lake, the oldest houses are on stilts ...

As a result of land subsidence due to oxidation of the farmed peat.

Cross sectional diagram
of Lake O, its levee and
the farm land it protects
(not to scale)

That in part explains why the levee is so tall:

Forty two feet above sea level and 143 miles around.

Big rain day in action

Here's an image of the radar
derived rainfall total for the day
as it comes in.

Should be fun to watch!

Feb 19, 2017

Happy Presidents Day!

“Do more good than harm.”

That’s what colleague (actually he was quite a few years older than me) told everyone at a group gathering just before he left. There was a tinge of self righteousness in what he said, but it was also about the closest you’d ever hear him admit to any regret. He was a man of action and strong opinions who loved to play Devil’s Advocate ... to the chagrin of quite a few.

Had Nixon not saved the swamp,
it would have been swallowed up
by a metropolis springing up around
the Miami-Dade Jetport instead

Funny how people leave and you never hear from them again.

But for some reason those words with me always stuck.


That brings us to President’s Day.

I’m old enough to remember when Washington’s Day and Lincoln’s Day were separate holidays. Then at some point they got combined into a single day to commemorate the Presidential office and all those that served from 1 to 44.

Diagram from a Nixon-era study 
that helped save the swamp

Who is my favorite president?

For me it's Richard Nixon without a pause.


What hydrologist can resist picking a president who made water gates, or was it Watergate, a household term.  Or that he has the same birthday as Elvis, American icon and singer/songwriter behind the meteorologic masterpiece Cold Kentucky Rain.  But most of all there's the fact that he single-handedly saved the swamp.  Well, maybe that's stretching it, but he was the president when the political wheels went in motion to create Big Cypress Nat'l Preserve.

Thank you Richard Nixon

Did he do more good than harm?

It’s hard to say no if you live in the swamp.