Oct 22, 2014

Dwarf and dome

Marl Prairie is still flooded,

And the cypress needles are still green.


Must be October.

Oct 21, 2014

Dry season outlook?

Last few dry season rain totals have been down.

Will this year's El Niño reverse that trend?

The ENSO index plays an influential role in how much dry season rain falls in south Florida. The above graphs show a comparison of the ENSO index to dry season rain totals from 1950 to present.

Only time will tell.

Oct 20, 2014

How does wet season stack up?

The rainy half of the year is almost through.

How did we measure up to previous wet seasons?

The bar chart above reports wet and dry season rainfall for south Florida from 1980 to present.  The long-term wet season average is 39 inches.  This year's 37 inches (with 10 days to go) is just shy of that mark.  The next six months (starting November 1st) mark the dry season half of the water year.   

The graph above divides the water year into two equal lengths:

May through October (color coded blue) displays the 6-month rain total wet season half of the water year. November through April (color coded red) displays the 6-month rain total for the dry half of the year. As you can see, this year's wet seasons total is down from the previous two years. But it's too early to call it a dry year. Deep drought doesn't typically strike south Florida until the spring. Until then, lower winter evapotranspiration rates and periodic frontal storms can sustain the water table high enough to keep the deeper sloughs, strands and domes wet well into the dry season.


A lingering El Niño may increase winter rain totals, too.

Oct 19, 2014

Structural view

Looking downstream
from the S-78 Ortona Dam

Oct 17, 2014

Turtle and dam riddler

Why did the turtle cross the dam?

The answer is not to get to the other side.

The problem was the step drop
(i.e. ten feet), fencing and high
discharge rate below
This turtle was desperate to get into the water.

Oct 16, 2014

Double source of the S-79

Discharge through the S-79 is controlled by two sources:

Releases from Lake Okeechobee.

The Lake is at its highest point of the summer,
but it could start dropping soon with dry season
air moving in.
And direct rainfall in the East Caloosahatchee Basin.

(See below.)
Rainfall in the East Caloosahatchee Basin
was below average this wet season. Last summer
it was above normal.
Scroll down to view the S-79's recent and historic flow history.

Turtle crossing

I got a turtle-led tour
of the S-78 Ortona Dam

Oct 15, 2014

Deep Caloosahatchee History

Here's a historic view of freshwater flows ...

into the Caloosahatchee Estuary through the S-79

The calendar graph above provides a historical and seasonal view of freshwater discharges into the Caloosahatchee Estuary through the S-79 structure.  The graph reads like a page of a book: years from top to bottom and months of the year from left to right.  The color coding matches the hydrograph a few posts down.   Blue and especially black data points indicate times of high freshwater flow and the orange and especially red data points indicate times of low flow.  Green check marks indicate times when the flow envelop is just right. 


Too much water and the brackish balance becomes too dilute (and also susceptible to harmful algal blooms).  Too little water causes saltwater intrusion to creep in.  Last year sustained a three-month span when freshwater releases were too high, making it the worst year for the estuary since 2005.  This year flows have been largely in check due to cooperative Lake O levels and normal wet season rainfall levels in the east Caloosahatchee Basin.

Discharges through the S-79 comes from those two sources.


See map above.

S-78 Lock and Damn

Also on the Caloosahatchee, just upstream of the S-79.

Here's the dam:

From top to bottom: TOP - Panorama taken while standing on structure looking downstream (left) and upstream (right). MIDDLE - View of structure looking downstream. LEFT - View of structure from downstream side looking east (upstream). RIGHT - Looking downstream (west) while standing on structure.

Here's the lock:

From top to bottom: TOP - View of lock taken from downstream (west) end looking upstream (east). LEFT - View of lock in foreground and dam/spillway in background. RIGHT - View of upstream (and outside) side of lock looking east (downstream).

Oct 14, 2014

Caloosahatchee flows

Here's a look at this summer's flows down the Caloosahatchee.

Unlike last summer, this year's flows are notably lower.

This hydrograph shows freshwater flows down the S-79 W.P. Franklin spillway.  The horizontal green band indicates the ecologically desirable range of flows, from 300 to 2,800 cubic feet per second (cfs).  Blue and especially black are the too high flow range and orange and especially red is when saltwater intrusion is most likely to occur.  Currently the Caloosahatchee is in the desirable green zone.

That helps keep the estuary's brackish waters in balance.

Oct 13, 2014

Caloosahatchee River at the S-79

Lock (foreground) and
spillway (background)
October 2014

Oct 12, 2014

United States of Florida?

Did Columbus (c. 1451 – 1506) discover Florida?

Undeveloped Florida shoreline as seen
through the eyes of Ponce De Leon

My understanding is that Christopher Columbus discovered a couple of the Caribbean Islands, starting with the Bahamas, and then sailed down to Cuba and Hispaniola.

Of course there were already people living on his new found lands, which he originally mistook for India, thus bequeathing the natives with a misnomer that still sticks: Indians.

But no, he never stepped foot in Florida.


More broadly:

Why isn’t the continent called “New India” instead?

Doesn't Florida look like India on this map?


In steps Amerigo Vespucci (c. 1454 – 1512).

He took sail seven years after Columbus, was only a visitor (not a captain), and only saw the south American coast … let alone coming anywhere close to Florida,

Somehow it’s his name – not Columbus’s – that made the map, for both the north and the south “new found lands!”

The red area (and beyond)
was what Ponce De Leon had in mind
when he dubbed the land "La Floride."
Newfoundland, of course, was discovered by “Lucky Leif” Ericson (c. 970 – c. 1020.) He outflanked Columbus by 500 years with the Viking preferred arctic trade routes where he set up a camp in Vinland to grow grapes.

(Had only he landed in Florida he could have grown oranges instead!)


Florida was conspicuously devoid of oranges when Juan Ponce De Leon (c. 1474 – 1521) first set eyes on it in 1512. His interests lay not in citrus, but water – the “Fountain of Youth” to be exact.

He never found it, but he did name the great peninsula on which we stand, united, as Floridians.



The under-reported truth is that Ponce De Leon had a bit of Vespucci in him:

Yes, he only saw a thin sliver of the Florida coast – east and southwest – but it wasn’t the coast or even the peninsula he had in mind when he decreed – “I dub thee Florida” … or however it was in Spanish he said it;


He meant the entire land mass, as far as it stretches:

Or in other words, all of North America.

No two maps are the same:
Even today.

It has a nice ring to it, and had a cartographer so long ago only penned the map differently, it may very well have been …

The United States of Florida!

But his search goes on:
Ye Olde Fountain of Youth