Hi All,

As we move into the what is traditionally the coldest month of the year from what was a pretty Wintery end to January, we should all console ourselves with the thought that we only have one more month of winter before spring should make an appearance. 🙂

Not that it’s a given nowadays with our changing climate that spring starts in March, maybe this year will be a late one?

Last night I watched the latest episode in an excellent series called “The Coffee Trail”, on Beeb2. This week it came from Vietnam, home of Asian coffee production and producer of the vastly inferior (IMHO) , Coffea Robusta bean, the harsher tasting, less smooth coffee bean that goes into most of our instant stuff. What caught my notice was the question of unsustainability of their industry due to over-fertilisation and more relevantly, climate change. The farmers remarked on ‘more extreme weather’ as a threat to their industry: heavier, more intense rainfall, extremes of heat and drier periods of weather / drought. It struck a chord with me how our weather patterns are working against the sustainability of golf in particular.

Unless you have a USGA-spec rootzone, (and a well-built one at that) then greens become tricky to maintain from October to March, due to our pattern of high rainfall at the back end of the year and elevated levels of disease. Even if you have this, without sand-capping the whole site, how do golfers get to them without splashing through heavy fairways and approaches.

Looking at the weather this weekend, you’d have to be mad to want to go out and play a game of golf, wouldn’t you?

ThorntonFeb15Shortly after typing this I mused on the fact that yesterday was the start of the Midlands fly fishing season at Thornton reservoir, near Leicester and yes there were plenty of mad people, myself included, sitting in boats in a negative windchill, just hankering to get out there and fish again, after 3 months of abstinence. Our generation are much hardier though than the one following us and less connected by an electronic umbilical chord to the latest PlayStation or I-Pad, god knows how you get those guys outside, without using a Cattle Prod! 🙂

So what do we have to look forward to this week ?

Well, a spell of settled, cold, but crucially dry weather is on the cards for most of us once the Atlantic high moves in from mid-week.

General Weather Situation

Starting off the week we have a dry, cold Monday for many after a hard frost. We aren’t totally out of the woods yet from a snow perspective as on Monday we have some snow showers over south west Munster and east Leinster, so I expect a nice Christmas cake topping on the Sugar Loaf 🙂 Those snow showers are also working down the west coast of the U.K, so a mixture of rain, sleet and snow expected for western and central Scotland, north west England, Wales and over the higher ground down in the south-west. Away from this it promises to be a settled, dry day, with hazy sunshine and a much lighter, north-westerly wind. Temperatures will remain at or just above freezing for most of the day.

Onto Tuesday and those bands of rain, sleet and snow have pushed into Ireland overnight, moving down from Co. Sligo to affect most of the country. For the U.K, it’s now the east coast of England and a band down The Midlands that looks to get this mixture of winter moisture, together with central Scotland. As we move through late morning, the weather clears to give a sunny day for most, except where those showers promise to linger, that is central Scotland and a band down the south-west of Ireland and England (straight down the M5 like). Temperatures will be similar to Monday, low single figures, with a stronger, north-west / northerly wind, so feeling distinctly chilly in a predicted -5°C windchill and another hard frost 🙁

By mid-week, we have that Atlantic high pressure beginning to push in and that will push the wetter air away to our east, so a much-reduced risk of snow from mid-week onwards. Wednesday promises to be dry, clear and sunny, perhaps more in the way of cloud cover down the eastern coast as a legacy of that low pressure system that brought the snow. Again there’s still a risk of some snow showers pushing down the east coast of Ireland and the U.K. Temperatures will remain very cold in a brisk, northerly, north-westerly wind and another hard frost for most.

For Thursday we have a very similar picture, though with a reduced risk of snow showers along the east coast of Ireland. In Scotland and the east coast of England, that threat remains though and some may push inland later on Thursday as the wind shifts round to the north-east, driving moisture off The North Sea. Again it’ll be pretty bloody cold, with a negative windchill. Brighter initially, but as that wind changes direction it’ll blow cloud in off The North Sea.

We close out the week with a settled, dry, frosty start and more in the way of cloud cover because of the wind direction. Still the risk of snow showers for the north-east of England, but away from this area, it’ll be dry and settled, perhaps more in the way of sunshine in the 2nd part of the day. Still cold mind.

That’s the way it looks for the coming weekend as well, less in the way of sunshine, certainly for Saturday, so dull, cold and bracing in that north / north-easterly wind. More in the way of sunshine on Sunday for the most areas, though westerly coasts my stay dull all day 🙁

Weather Outlook

As you’ll see from the Unisys Weather animated-GIF at the top of the page, we have high pressure sat right over us for the start of next week, so that means dry, settled, remaining cold, but perhaps a little milder than of late, with a lower risk of frost. From mid-week, next week onwards, we have a change in the wind direction to a more milder southerly, so a tad warmer and still settled. We have a new low pressure heading our way for the end of next week, but it may not even get to us till next weekend, so dry, cold and settled is the outlook. I’ll take that for Mid-February any day of the week 🙂

Agronomic Notes

Rainfall Stats


Thanks for that late flurry of stats last week, Paul has updated the interactive version and the pdf has also been updated ready for downloading. Looking at the pattern of rainfall, I put together this rough schematic (above) showing the areas affected least and most by our meandering jet stream. It makes sense to me because when we have a southerly-orientated jet stream, the south-west of England is the first landfall, whereas when it’s a more northerly-orientated, the north / north-west of Ireland and the U.K (Scotland) is in the firing line.

The central and eastern areas of the south of England / Midlands are consistently the driest, however there’s a dividing line, south of Milton Keynes where you are more likely to be affected by rainfall pushing up from the continent during the summer, so this is why you often see higher rainfall totals for the south coast for example than The Midlands. As I intimated last week, I don’t think it’s a surprise that the Romans built the Great North Road up the eastern side of the country because it’s consistently the driest area, along a dividing line east of the M11 / A1.

Ok, I accept these are generalisations from the 100 or so stats we got, but the patterns are pretty stable, even if the totals vary from year to year. Thanks again for all the time and effort taken to submit stats.

Cold Temperature Dessication


Now this obviously doesn’t apply to everyone, but in the drier areas of the U.K and Ireland, I think we will see some cold-temperature dessication starting to show by the end of the week / beginning of next week if the high pressure holds in situ. This primarily affects shallower-rooted grasses, so Poa annua in particular, both the annual and perennial biotypes. You may start to see (after a week of frosts that is), bleaching of areas in a pattern synonymous with Poa biotype distribution, especially on sandier rootzones and / or areas high in organic matter where rooting is shallower.

With many clubs operating an ‘open-even if frosty’ golfing policy (out of economic necessity), the effect of day-to day-play in a fixed pattern without the ability to move holes (because of the frost) tends to exaggerate this phenomenon. As I intimated above, it won’t be everywhere but I think it will appear this February because of the cold, dry high pressure that’s coming into play. Nothing you can do about it, it’s just worth noting that’s all.

Growth-Degree-Day Stats


January’s GDD data showed a month of 2 halves really, mild in the beginning with rain and then cold at the end as the jet stream sunk lower. The total for The Oxfordshire, Thame shown above was 22.5 growth-degree days, whereas down on the Costa Del Bournemouth the figure was double that at 47, in other words, good growing for half of the month ! You can download the pdf here

If we drill down into the growth potential and rainfall stats we can see clearly the majority of growth was achieved in the first half of January.


Growth Potential and Rainfall – January 2015 – The Oxfordshire

Great for recovery, but unfortunately we can also see we were consistently wet throughout the month in this location, so areas really didn’t get an opportunity to dry out. Better this coming month on that front but I have a feeling February will be a little or no growth month in 2015.

 Grub Activity


Despite the cold weather, there has been a few reports of Leatherjacket and Chafer activity, but I’m hoping this cold spell will knock that on the head. That said it’s often the case that Badgers, Corvids, etc are at their hungriest at this time of year, so you have a higher potential for damage on managed-turf this month when food is scarce as they search for grubs.

Ok that’s it for this week, the in-tray beckons….

All the best and wrap up well….

Mark Hunt