Apr 19, 2019

End of "water year" explained

Seems like we're already a couple months into 2019, right?

In terms of calendar year, the answer is "yes."

Diagram showing the relationship
between calendar and water years

But in terms of water year,

We are only now approaching the start of Water Year 2019.

The reason is semi-explained in the diagram above.

The six month summer span (May-Oct) marks our reliably rainy half of the year whereas the six month winter span (Nov-Apr) marks the time when rains are the exception, not the rule.  October and May are actually "shoulder seasons."  They can go either way.  And of course all it takes is one big storm front in any winter month to significantly refill the swamp.

In terms hydro bookkeeping, May 1st marks the calendar day for starting the water year anew.

Tail that wags the spring swamp

Usually by the end of a water year,

We know what we have.

Bar chart of this year's annual,
wet season and dry season rain totals
to previous water years

But this year I'm still left scratching my head.

The annual rainfall total tells me we had a "dry year," and yes, that was all but predestined when we only received 35 inches of wet season rain (i.e. our normal wet season is 43 inches).  Meanwhile here we are in late April and the marl is still mushy.

The reason?

Answer: Our slightly above average 14 inches of winter season rain.

Numbers wise, the dry season can never compete with wet season totals.

However, the effect of those chancy winter rains, when they strike, is profound when it comes to striking a balance between fire and flood.

Apr 18, 2019

Art of the patchy burn

You know its a good burn ...

When post event you still see some green.

Can you see the standing water
just a few steps away?

That's because the water table is close to ground's surface ....

As evidenced by my footprint in the marl.

Even when you can't see it water is at work in the swamp.

Apr 17, 2019

"Month to month"

When it comes to nursing an injury,

We usually take it day by day.

Can you see the difference
between last year's dry winter stretch
and this year's rainier winter months?

When it comes to keeping the swamp hydrated,

Perhaps the best time frame is month to month.

Yes, January and February were back-to-back "rainier than normal" months, and that made for a rather wetter winter stretch.  But don't expect that wetness to carry over through the end of spring without more rain.

As usual, its a month to month.

Apr 15, 2019

Fire-damaged grasshopper?

No, this grasshopper wasn't damaged by the fire,

Lubbers turn yellow
as they mature into adults

It was just molting.

And probably looking forward to munching on the new growth.

Apr 14, 2019

Line in the fire swamp

When it comes to prescribed fire,

Roads can be a fire fighter's best friend.

As seen on Birdon Road looking south

They form a convenient barrier to control and corral the burn.

Plus some favorable winds and the right amount of ground moisture ...

Can you see the fire line?

Fire in the swamp is a positive force.

Apr 12, 2019

Tale of two domes

One dome mostly survived the wildfire,

But the one next to it did not.

Always a sad sight to see
come spring when a a cypress dome
doesn't green out

The reason?

The hole in the middle of the one (on the left) is a tell tale sign it's deeper.

That helped keep it hydric when the fire raged ...

Whereas the one on the right was left high and dry.

Apr 11, 2019

Swamp of seasonal swings

Is this a wet dry season?

I'm almost afraid to say until spring is done!

This chart shows the recent pendulum swing between wet and dry seasons in the Big Cypress.  The blue line shows the actual water table, the white line shows the long-term average, and the gray band shows the 25-year historic range

And therein lies the conundrum in the Big Cypress:

What by most metrics was a "dry year" experienced a bump in the water table that caused the winter (by normal winter standards) to be "wet."

Just the opposite can be said for the year before.

The year of Irma (Summer 2017) is our new flood of record in our history books.  Yet by the very next spring (Spring 2018) the swamp was bone dry, causing the Buzzard Wildfire to erupt.

Panorama within the footprint
of the Buzzard Wildfire,
One year later

My final verdict?

Whatever it is now, it's likely to change.

Apr 10, 2019

Second chance?

The bad news is that a wildfire eviscerated these cypress.

As for the good news?

New cypress trees to the rescue!

Yes, you guessed it:

A year later, the dome is already starting to coppice.

It won't happen tomorrow,

But eventually with a little luck, this dome will grow back.

Can you see the coppicing cypress
in the burnt out dome? 

The trick for that to happen ...

Is to ensure this dome's long-term water supply.

The health of the swamp depends on it!