Rainfall trend and variability in Southeast Florida: Implications for freshwater availability in the Everglades

PLoS One. 2019 Feb 12;14(2):e0212008. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0212008. eCollection 2019.


Freshwater demand in Southeast Florida is predicted to increase over the next few decades. However, shifting patterns in the intensity and frequency of drought create considerable pressure on local freshwater availability. Well-established water resources management requires evaluating and understanding long-term rainfall patterns, drought intensity and cycle, and related rainfall deficit. In this study, the presence of rainfall monotonic trends was analyzed using linear regression and Mann-Kendal trend tests. Pettit's single point detection test examined the presence of an abrupt change of rainfall. Drought in Southeast Florida is assessed using the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) in 3-, 6-, 12-, and 24-months scale; and the Fast Fourier Transform is applied to evaluate the frequency of each drought intensity. There was an increase of rainfall in most of the wet season months, the total wet season, and the annual total. The wet season duration showed a decrease driven by a decrease in October rainfall. Since 1990, wet season and total annual rainfall exhibited an abrupt increase. The SPI analysis has indicated that extended wetness characterizes the contemporary rainfall regime since 1995, except for the incidence of intermittent dry spells. Short-term droughts have 3-year to 5-year recurrence intervals, and sustained droughts have a 10-year and 20-year recurrence intervals. In Southeast Florida, prolonged drought limits freshwater availability by decreasing recharge, resulting in a longer hydro-period to maintain the health of the Everglades Ecosystem, and to control saltwater intrusion. The increasing dry season duration suggests the growing importance of promoting surface water storage and demand-side management practices.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Climate Change
  • Droughts
  • Ecosystem
  • Florida
  • Fresh Water
  • Rain*
  • Seasons
  • Water Resources*

Grant support

This research is partially supported by the Everglades Foundation, FIU for Everglades’s fellowship, the Department of Earth and Environment, the NSF CREST-CACHE, Southeast Environmental Research Center (SERC), and Institute of Water & Environment of Florida International University. The funders had no role in study design, data collection, and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.