Impacts of Hurricanes on Surface Water Flow Within a Wetland

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Between 2001 and 2005, seven category 3 or higher major hurricanes made landfall within the US. The hydrologic impacts of these distinct climatic phenomena frequently occurring in wetland watersheds, however, are not well understood. The focus of this study was to evaluate the impacts of hurricane wind and rainfall conditions on water velocity and water elevations within the study wetland, the Florida Everglades. Specifically water velocity data was measured near two tree islands (Gumbo Limbo (GL) and Satin Leaf (SL)) and wind speed, water elevation, and rainfall were obtained from nearby wind observation stations. During the direct impacts of the hurricanes (Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma), water speed, flow direction, and hydraulic gradients were altered, and the extent of variation was positively related to wind characteristics, with significant alterations in flow direction at depth during Hurricane Wilma due to higher wind speeds. After the direct impacts, the longer lasting effect of hurricanes (time scale of a few days) resulted in altered flow speeds that changed by 50% or less. These longer lasting changes in flow speeds may be due to the redistribution of emergent vegetation.



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