1st March

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Hi All,

Just typing the 1st of March makes me feel like winter is finally on the back foot, but unfortunately as last year autumn took the place of winter, I think they’ll be a certain amount of winter taking the place of spring in 2016…

The problem is we have a jet stream that has formed into a series of peaks and troughs across The Atlantic and currently we are sitting in a trough. To the left of us, out in the Atlantic is a high pressure system and that’s blocking the traditional south westerly, mild air stream that used to typify our springs. This then channels low pressure systems into the trough from a northerly orientation (read cold). Once they are in the trough, they aren’t going anywhere quickly so they rotate in situ and pull in either cold northerly or potentially colder, easterly winds, which can mean wintry showers and snow.

Mar12016

So that sets up the start of March to be cold and unsettled I’m afraid, but let’s put some detail on it….

General Weather Situation

Tuesday sees that rain that I forecast yesterday (much easier to forecast a day out you know 🙂 ) sitting in a vertical band over the southern half of the U.K clearing Ireland during the morning (though leaving behind showers). This will slowly move eastwards into south east and eastern England through late morning and the afternoon bringing some heavy bursts of rain in places. Scotland will miss the worst of this today with only lighter rain affecting the west coast and some wintry showers over The Highlands. By evening rush hour that rain has largely exited stage right to leave a dry, mild picture over the U.K and Ireland, with the only blemishes being some rain over Donegal, north west Connacht, the west coast of Scotland and the north west of England. Winds will be moderate and from the west which means the air will be mild and we’ll see temperatures in the low to middle teens by the afternoon, but they won’t last unfortunately.

Overnight into Wednesday those mild temperatures quickly become a thing of the past as the temperature drops markedly overnight, so we start Wednesday cold and unsettled with rain, sleet and possibly snow showers affecting the north and west of Ireland and the U.K right from the off. As westerly moisture meets colder continental air I expect some of these showers to turn to snow over the higher elevations of the south west of England, Wales and The Lakes. As we progress through Wednesday morning this band of moisture sinks south east over Ireland and the U.K, pushed along by a cold north westerly wind. By lunchtime we see more moisture pushing into Scotland, Ireland and the north west of the U.K, falling as a mixture of rain, sleet and snow and this slowly moves south and eastwards through the afternoon. So a wet, cold day with some wintry showers for most places on Wednesday. Temperature-wise you won’t get much change out of mid-single figures I’m afraid, pegged back by a raw and strengthening north-westerly wind.

For Thursday we have a drier picture, but they’ll still be a band of predominantly wintry showers stretching down from the Scottish Highlands all the way to Northern England. These will tend to sit along central and eastern areas. Further west and south it looks a dull, dry and cloudy start to the morning, but by lunchtime we start to see gaps in the cloud and the sun breaking through. The winds will move round to bracing northerlies so you can guess temperatures will be nothing to write home about I’m afraid, struggling to mid-single figures in places, maybe a tad higher in the west.  For Ireland the afternoon brings a new band of moisture pushing into the west and rapidly moving across the country during the afternoon evening. By dusk this rain will be into the south west of England and West Wales and it’ll slowly push eastwards. As it does so the rain will turn to sleet and snow in places, particularly across The Highlands and north east of Scotland, so a cold, damp end to the day.

Overnight into Friday, that band of wintry rain, sleet and snow moves across the south of England so by dawn we have a reasonably dry picture over the west and north, but wetter south of a line drawn down from The Midlands of England. As the moisture moves away it’ll leave a drier, brighter picture behind it for all areas, save for a small amount of wintry showers affecting North Wales and the north east of England. The wind will be northerly, lighter than of late, but still temperatures will be very low for the start of March, barely able to move into high single figures I’m afraid. Later on Friday we’ll see light rain cross Ireland from the north west to the south east.

Clearing skies suggest Saturday morning will start frosty and reasonably bright and that’s how it’ll stay for most of the day save for some wintry showers affecting the north east coast of Scotland and England. Some of these showers could feed down over The Midlands through late morning, pushed along on a light to moderate, northerly wind. Temperatures will stay low, mid-single figures if you’re lucky so that suggests I’ll be needing my full thermals for my weekly fly fishing trip :). Sunday looks very similar, dry and bright after a frosty start, especially in the south of England with the occasional wintry shower pushing down the north east coast of the U.K. Later in the day, it’ll cloud over in Scotland, Ireland and the north of England, heralding the arrival of some more moisture I’m afraid which affects the north west coasts of Ireland, Scotland and England during Sunday evening.

Weather Outlook

So is there any chance of this succession of Rossby Waves (definition here) in the jet stream moving off and giving us some milder air as we progress into March  ?

Well yes but it’s going to be a slow process that if it happens will take most of next week so we won’t be transitioning into milder weather overnight 🙁

Next week looks like starting cold and unsettled with north westerly winds holding the fort and that’ll push down a mix of wintry showers predominantly into the north and west of the U.K, with Ireland largely missing the worst. As we move onto Tuesday the wind becomes more westerly, intensifying and that will do two things, it’ll raise temperatures a little, but it’ll also push more rain into Ireland and the southern half of the U.K through Tuesday and into Wednesday. That wind will alternate between northerly, north westerly and westerly through the latter part of the week so that means we’ll remain unsettled with blustery, wintry showers pushing through and then drier interludes following. The latter part of Thursday looks to bring more rain and then Friday looks to finish the week dry, but cold. Temperature-wise I think we’ll be looking more at high single figures and with persistent cloud cover we should lose any frost for most of the week anyway. No mild March on the horizon yet then 🙁

Agronomic Notes

As I sit typing this it’s currently yakking down, but it is mild and I’ve watched the soil temperature bounce up from 5°C to 10.5°C in a few hours because the rain is coming from mild air so it’s warming things up quickly. (Warming in the truest sense of the word that is :)) Hopefully you all got my mini update yesterday and were able to use the last dry day to get some good jobs sorted before a more moisture laden week. I did the same, out spraying trials at 5 p.m. last night ahead of the rain 🙂

So first off I’m going to look back at the year so far because it’s interesting to look at where we are this year vs. prior year.

Would you say we are ahead or behind the curve at the end of February, beginning of March vs. last year eh ?

GDD Analysis of the year so far….

So let’s look at the y.t.d and compare it with last year in terms of growth patterns and rainfall…

UKfEB20152016COMP

What we can see from the stats above is that on both sites where we compare 2016 y.t.d vs. 2015 at the same point we are significantly ahead growth-wise, we will look at how and why later. Of course that growth comes at a price because we know milder winters = wetter winters and you can see this at both sites, but particularly at Thame where the rainfall is 86% higher in the first two months of 2016 and the growth 98% higher.

Looking across the Irish sea, the case for milder air = wetter air is even more convincing…(and bear in mind these guys get it first when the jet stream is strong as it has been)

iRELANDfEB20152016COMP

Across all of the sites we see a 20-30% increase in GDD for 2016 vs. 2015, but with that increase in air temperature comes a significant increase in rainfall with some areas like Cork showing a 135% increase in rainfall over the prior year. It’s clear that the south of Ireland lay straight on the path of the prevailing jet stream during January and February. (as did Wales, the north west of England and the west of Scotland 🙁 )

Impacts on Grass Agronomics…

Wet and mild means a number of things but from a practical perspective it’s meant that winter projects have been delayed significantly and to that end I see a lot of facilities still trying to complete these ahead of the spring season (For you guys a slow start to March isn’t a headache I guess…)

It also means the maintenance of outfield turf has been a real headache and don’t forget this continues a theme that started last November with high air temperatures and heavy rainfall. So many clubs are only just getting some areas of outfield turf under control at the moment and I hope you used last week and yesterday to good effect because it’ll be wet under foot again by the close of play today.

Disease-wise I think we’ve mainly seen new outbreaks confined to older scars and I’ve had less reports of aggressive new Microdochium nivale on my travels. This fits in with the theory that Microdochium spores don’t like sitting wet and their viability suffers longer-term, so they are less likely to germinate and develop into pathogenic populations. Where we have seen disease has been on drier areas and again this fits in with the theory above.

Poa annua seeding

Now this will be an interesting one because our GDD figures reset on January 1st whereas Poa was growing strongly during November and particularly December.

The question in my mind is whether this strong end of year growth will cause the Poa seedhead flush to start earlier this year. And yes I know you can all send me pictures of Poa flowering on some area of your facility on any given day of the year, but I’m talking about the seedhead flush on fine turf when it really gets motoring 🙂

We are ahead anyway when you look at the stats above so you’d think it’ll be earlier but the prognosis of a slow start to March may just hold it back, so we will see. For sure it will be an interesting question to answer and please bear in mind we have never experienced December growth like we did last year so it could turn out to be a game changer.

When did the enhanced growth of 2016 take place ?

I’ve chosen two locations, one in Ireland and one in the U.K, now I know it doesn’t represent everyone but I’m limited with time and comparable data, so forgive me if it’s not in your ball park.

UKEB20152016GPRAINFALLCOMP

The first thing that strikes me looking at the growth pattern over the first two months of 2016 is there is very few points when the turf was dormant. Secondly there were some strong periods of growth through February which is unusual and almost certainly caused by peak patterns in the jet stream pulling warm air across the country. Rainfall-wise we had some periods of heavy rainfall (for the south of England) and not a lot of drying days till the end of February.

If we look at Ireland and here I’ve used Wexford as a location (so I don’t get slagged by Dublin, Cork or Kerry for favouritism, instead you’ll all moan that I’ve chosen Wexford 🙂 ) the pattern is similar, but different…

IRELANDfEB20152016GPRAINFALLCOMP

You can see a similar pattern in terms of growth with some strong periods of growth through January and February, but of course not as strong as it was in Southern England mind. Rainfall-wise, the pattern for Wexford is far more rain days and I only counted 8 truly dry days out of 60 in their data, not much fun lads 🙁

Finishing off on the comparisons, I’ve added the year-on-year data from The Oxfordshire prepared by Wendy and provided by Seanicus (cheers me dears)

GDDmonthlycomparisonandcumulativeJantoDec2010to2016image

Somewhat bizarrely we are tracking identically to 2014, which was a great spring in terms of consistent growth, but somehow I don’t think we will replicate March 2014 this year….You can see though that we are much of a muchness so far this year, not the coldest, not the mildest…

Looking Ahead..

I’m very aware that many of you face maintenance challenges in March, whether that be scheduled aeration on fine turf or converting your winter season pitches to cricket outfields..

Looking at the weather prognosis we are likely to be cool for March with alternating periods of cooler, wetter weather in the early part of the month and then possibly dry, cold at night, warm in the day periods from Mid-March (Mystic Megging somewhat here..) so how do we set our stall out for a cold March ?

The main area is nutrition and for me it’s going to be granular products that continue the theme of January and February in terms of providing a more consistent turf response.  With respect to  nitrogen sources, ammonium nitrate, ammonium sulphate and potassium nitrate are likely to be the order of the day if you need to push recovery because you’re in the maintenance camp. If you’re not, then fine for you, but I don’t think this will be a March where you’ll put holes in your turf and they’ll grow over naturally 🙁

If we do run into high pressure sometime this month and we have cold nights and warm days, the boot will be on the other foot with foliar applications the order of the day, but that’s a little way off yet possibly. So for the time-being I think we should stick to what we know works at low soil temperatures with minimal reliance on microbial conversion and that’s the N sources I’ve listed above.

Ok that’s all for now, Tempus fugit !

All the best..

Mark Hunt

 

 

 

 

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