Quantcast

Extreme Drought Hits South Florida

While the drought in California grabs headlines across the country, other places around the U.S. and the world are experiencing brutal droughts. It's well known that much of the Western U.S. is in some level of a drought—parts of Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana are all experiencing severe to exceptional drought. But little attention has been paid to the drought gripping South Florida.

Much of South Florida is in severe to extreme drought. Photo credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

While it has not been languishing for four years like the state of California, South Florida is in the midst of a severe to extreme drought, according to the latest data from the U.S. Drought Monitor. And South Florida happens to be home to a whole lot of people—the drought there is affecting more than 5.5 million.

South Florida's tropical savanna climate has two distinct seasons: wet and dry. The dry season is considered to be roughly from November to April and makes up for about 25 percent of yearly rainfall. That means three-quarters of South Florida's rainfall arrives between May and October, and to date, many areas are recording 10 to 16 inches below normal with North Perry Airport recording a whopping 20 inches below normal as of Aug. 20. Rainfall that low has resulted in the driest wet season on record for North Perry along with Fort Lauderdale and Tamiami. And almost every other area in South Florida is having one of its driest wet seasons on record.

In addition to a lack of rainfall, "fresh water usage has been a big factor" in South Florida's drought, reports The Washington Post. "Agricultural irrigation, commercial and residential needs place demands on the region’s fresh water supply, both in lakes and in the subterranean aquifers," said The Post.

Far too much of the freshwater that is available is polluted from farm runoff. The South Florida Water Management District board applauded farmers earlier this month for reducing phosphorus pollution again this year, but environmentalists were quick to point out that due to water quality restrictions the water could not go to the southern Everglades, where the water is desperately needed.

Read page 1

“That’s a huge improvement from where they were, but that’s not in compliance,” Earthjustice attorney David Guest, who successfully sued the state to clean up water supplies, told The Miami Herald. “That’s a little like saying we were driving at 140 mph and now we’re driving at 100. That’s great, but more is possible and more is necessary. They aren’t taking responsibility.”

Additionally, the state of Lake Okeechobee, a major source of freshwater for the region, has many concerned. The lake is the largest in the southeastern U.S. but it's average depth is only 9 feet, and its surface level is still 1.5 feet below normal for this time of the year. Biscayne Bay and Florida Bay are getting saltier because of saltwater intrusion, which could bring more salt into the Biscayne Aquifer—where most of South Florida gets its drinking water.

To add to South Florida's woes, they've experienced a number of brush fires recently due to the exceptionally dry conditions—more than 2,000 fires have burned 72,000 acres. The southern areas of South Florida continue to be at moderate to high risk for wildfires.

It remains unclear whether there is relief in sight. There's an equal chance of above or below normal rainfall across South Florida from September through November, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Generally, Memorial Day weekend through July 4 are the wettest six weeks of the year for South Florida. Early July through mid-August is hotter and often drier. Late August through October is characterized by highly variable rainfall mainly due to tropical activity and cold fronts.

A couple tropical storms could make up a huge portion of the deficit, but the storms are no guarantee, and they could inundate an area with rainfall over a day or two, resulting in intense flooding and runoff—just ask Texas and Oklahoma about that. This does not allow the underground aquifers to recharge. Unfortunately, as seen by this tweet, not all Floridians are even aware that there is a drought going on right now.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Boyan Slat’s ‘Mega Expedition’ Shows ‘Our Oceans Are Riddled With Plastic’

7 Lessons Learned About the Politics of Climate Change

30 Whales Have Died Off the Coast of Alaska and No One Knows Why

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Bernie Sanders holds his first presidential campaign rally at Brooklyn College on March 02 in Brooklyn, New York. Kena Betancur / VIEWpress / Corbis. Getty Images

Bernie Sanders has become the first contender in the crowded 2020 Democratic presidential primary field to pledge to offset all of the greenhouse gas emissions released by campaign travel, The Huffington Post reported Thursday.

Read More Show Less
An aerial view of the flooding at the Camp Ashland, Nebraska on March 17. Nebraska National Guard / Staff Sgt. Herschel Talley / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The record flooding in the Midwest that has now been blamed for four deaths could also have lasting consequences for the region's many farmers.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

In tea, food, or just on your windowsill, embrace the fragrance and fantastic healing potential of herbs.

Read More Show Less

By Ana Santos Rutschman

The world of food and drug regulation was rocked earlier this month by the news of a change in leadership at the Food and Drug Administration. Commissioner Scott Gottlieb resigned and will step down in early April. His temporary replacement is Dr. Ned Sharpless, director of the National Cancer Institute.

Read More Show Less
MartinPrescott / iStock / Getty Images

On Wednesday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the first 20 chemicals it plans to prioritize as "high priority" for assessment under the Toxic Substances Control Act. Given the EPA's record of malfeasance on chemicals policy over the past two years, it is clear that these are chemicals that EPA is prioritizing to ensure that they are not properly evaluated or regulated.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Strawberries top the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen" list of U.S. produce most contaminated with pesticides. DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP / Getty Images

Which conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables in the U.S. are most contaminated with pesticides? That's the question that the Environmental Working Group answers every year with its "Dirty Dozen" list of produce with the highest concentration of pesticides after being washed or peeled.

Read More Show Less
A drilling rig in a Wyoming natural gas field. William Campbell / Corbis via Getty Images

A U.S. federal judge temporarily blocked oil and gas drilling on 300,000 acres of federal leases in Wyoming Tuesday, arguing that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) "did not sufficiently consider climate change" when auctioning off the land, The Washington Post reported.

Read More Show Less
Mizina / iStock / Getty Images

By Ryan Raman, MS, RD

Oats are widely regarded as one of the healthiest grains you can eat, as they're packed with many important vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Read More Show Less