By Capt. Ralph Allen
Today is the first full day of summer, and Florida’s summer is hot, humid and rainy. During a normal year, the average Southwest Floridian can expect to experience approximately four and a half feet of rain, of which approximately 36 inches will fall from June to September. In other words, somewhere around two thirds of our annual rainfall occurs during one third of the year, so the rainfall rate during the wet season is four times the average rate during the dry season.
Each spring, as we near the end of our eight-month dry season, the prolonged lack of rainfall leaves the rivers in Southwest Florida sluggish and slow-flowing. These shriveled rivers don’t deliver much fresh water into coastal waters or the huge Charlotte Harbor estuary. As a result, local inshore waters become increasingly salty as the dry season progresses and more and more transparent as clear water from the Gulf of Mexico pushes into the estuaries. This changes with the advent of our wet season — near-daily rains will cause the rivers to swell into fast-flowing torrents of brown-tinted fresh water. When the rivers start to swell, a rush of fresh water pours into Charlotte Harbor and pushes the Gulf water in the estuary back out to sea. As a result, the Harbor becomes darker in color as well as less salty.
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