Sunday, December 20, 2009

No Christmas Miracle

It's not our imagination, this has been one of the wettest Decembers on record! The rain that moved through Four Holes Swamp last week turned to snow in the Upstate and continued with record-breaking snowfall across the border into North Carolina and on into New England. Enough snow dropped in the latitudes to the north that it will likely be a white Christmas in those areas. It doesn't look like we'll be getting any snow at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest, but the forecast shows one more dose of rain before December comes to a close.

This month has been the wettest December on record since 1941 with records at the North Charleston airport beginning in 1938. The rain forecast for later this week might be enough to push the month's total to the #1 position in the record books.

December rainfall (National Weather Service office at Charleston airport)
1. 1941/11.08"
2. 2009/9.72"
3. 1953/7.09"
4. 1994/6.35"
5. 1977/5.88"

Not only is the month of December on a record-setting pace, the new record daily maximum rainfall for December 18th was set at the NWS office at the Charleston airport where 3.18" fell thus breaking the old record of 0.95" set in 1948.

What does all this rainfall mean to the swamp? Besides making the swamp actually look like a swamp, it means that there will likely be no Christmas miracle for the Loblolly Pine that has sprouted far from the swamp's edge and the safety of higher ground. The Bald Cypress and Tupelo Gums that constitute the majority of trees growing in the swamp are unaffected by the coming and goings of water. However, this Loblolly Pine seedling stands alone on its fallen-log perch because this and other local tree species are not adapted to stand with their roots in saturated soils. Without the extensive evaporation in warmer weather and with photosynthesis shut down in all but a few swamp-residing trees, the higher water level in the swamp will drop more slowly than at other times of the year, which will cause the Loblolly Pine seedling to endure a more extensive period of submergence.

Although it will likely be wet and not white, have a Merry Christmas!

Image by Mark Musselman

No comments: