Monthly Archives: January 2019

Jan 28th

Hi All,

After the first snow of winter last week for many we face another wintry week on the cards with an increasing chance of more snow as we progress through the week with Tuesday and Thursday looking particularly likely for more of the white stuff. Thanks to Sean for this cracking picture and I bet people were still ringing up to see if the course was open 🙂

Whilst many of the tabloids are heralding this as a start of the ‘Beast from the East’, the science does not support this currently with great inconsistency between the different long-term (10 – 14 day) forecasts. Looking at the weekend just gone we had that Atlantic high pressure nudge in again and bring mild air up from The Mediterranean pushing temperatures up into double figures before dropping back again. Time will of course be the best judge but my feeling at present is that we haven’t seen an onset of the same dominant weather pattern we saw after the Sudden Stratospheric Warming event in January 2018.

General Weather Situation

Now I’ll start the my commentary on the general weather situation with a caveat and it’s one that relates to snowfall, how much and where. Of all the weather parameters, I think snowfall is the most difficult to predict and my advice is always to look on the weather radar to see where it is occurring and just as importantly, where it is heading on the day. So without further ado, onto Monday’s weather and looking out of my office windows I see a lovely dawn approaching with clear blue skies and a slight frost.

So for most of the U.K we start Monday bright, clear and frosty with a widespread frost but already there’s a heightened risk of snow along north-eastern and eastern coasts. For Ireland there’s more cloud cover courtesy of a weak rain front moving from west to east. This will likely turn to sleet and snow across elevation through the morning. A settled day aside from this across the U.K with long spells of winter sunshine and just a risk of an isolated snow shower along eastern coasts. For Ireland the rain front continues to push eastwards clearing the west by lunchtime and leaving just a threat of wintry showers across the mountains of Wicklow / Leinster by dusk. A cold, fresh, north-west wind in situ will keep temperatures pegged down in the 4-6°C range with a pronounced windchill.

Overnight we see that weak front push wintry showers into north-west Scotland and Wales and these will consolidate across central northern England stretching from the Pennines up to northern Scotland. By dawn on Tuesday we will see another band of rain, sleet and snow across Ireland and these will push rapidly across the Irish Sea into Wales and the north-west of England, Wales and Scotland by mid-morning. Now there is plenty of conjecture whether this moisture will turn up as rain, sleet or snow but I think it’s looking more like rain, sleet on the whole except over elevation of course. By lunchtime Tuesday the showers have crossed east into north-east England / Scotland, but also across Wales and The South West, more likely falling as rain across the latter. As we close out Tuesday that band of moisture has a south-easterly tilt and here I think it may increasingly turn to snow as temperatures drop on Tuesday evening.  The northerly end of this moisture may cover The Midlands and East Anglia as well, so a threat of rain turning to snow on Tuesday evening here. Like I said at the start of this blog, your best option is to watch it on the radar and track its path and intensity if you are concerned. Similar temperatures to Monday initially with a westerly wind which spins round north-westerly as we approach dusk and it is this that will drop the temperature and increase the risk of snow.

Into Wednesday and with clearing skies across the U.K and Ireland we will see a pretty hard frost I think, so some tricky driving conditions first thing Wednesday after that overnight moisture. Almost a re-run of Tuesday with wintry showers crossing Ireland and already into The South West,  Wales and The Lakes as the sun comes up. Further east it’ll be a calm start to the day and they’ll less in the way of moisture around mid-week. The north-west of Scotland will see a mix of rain, sleet and snow move in during the morning and this will push south into south-west Scotland by lunchtime. Ireland will clear through the morning with the main front of wintry showers confined to Cork and Wexford I think before moving off into The Irish Sea by lunchtime. This band of wintry showers will then push into West Wales and The South West during the afternoon, but it will be on a southerly trajectory so shouldn’t push too far inland. Many areas will see plenty of winter sun on Wednesday but that moisture over Scotland will continue to push south across The Borders and into The North East by dusk leading to some wintry showers overnight for northern England. 2-4°C on Wednesday with a fresh westerly wind providing significant windchill.

Onto Thursday, my aren’t we getting a clip on (aided by a cup of Kenco Costa Rican instant mind) and after a reasonably quiet mid-week, we have another low pressure in bound and this one promises to probably bring the most snow with it. So by dawn on Thursday morning this low is already across Ireland bringing a mix of rain, sleet and snow and strong winds so a wet day for Ireland on Thursday. Further east we have a settled and dry start to the day with another hard penetrating frost across England, Wales and Scotland. By lunchtime that weather picture will be changing though as that moisture pushes into The South West and South Wales and rapidly pushes eastwards covering the whole of the southern half of the country by the evening rush hour. Now the question is and will be as we move closer to Thursday, where exactly is in the firing line ?

Image courtesy of Meteoblue

Image courtesy of WXCHARTS

If I pick 2 weather models, WxCharts and Meteoblue, you can see there’s disagreement between the exact path of that low pressure system with the former showing a more northerly aspect and the latter, more southerly. What that tells me is that currently we aren’t certain. They also both show a mixture of rain, sleet and snow so there’s another variable. My guess is we will see rain first turning more to snow as we progress through the evening.

As that low moves in we will see the wind change from westerly to easterly through the course of the day and that’ll have another bearing on temperatures and snowfall in my books. Whatever it’ll be a bitter day with temperatures not much above freezing and a negative windchill. Wrap up well.

So finishing off the week on Friday, that mix of rain, sleet and snow is still with us overnight into Friday so by dawn we may see quite some accumulation across the southern half of the U.K extending up into northern England. Ireland looks to finish the week with a penetrating frost and clear, crisp and sunny. So Friday sees a west-east and north-south divide with Ireland and Scotland looking to have a clear, cold and dry day and England and Wales set for some wintry showers and wintry sunshine. That said I think they are more likely to persist across eastern coasts and down into The South East, possibly turning to rain later before turning back to snow on Friday evening across the far south east. Lot’s of uncertainty here both in location and type of moisture. So another very cold day with a strong wind and pronounced windchill.

Key will be the path of the low in determining whether the rain, sleet and snow will have a southerly or northerly influence.


So onto the weekend and would you believe the start of the fly fishing season at Thornton reservoir near Leicester !!

I think the picture below will be accurate for the snow, but they’ll be a lot less water in the reservoir courtesy of the dry summer and autumn / winter and maybe the Trout won’t oblige ? 🙂 (And yes I couldn’t feel my fingers !)

So how does the weekend look ?

Well Saturday looks windy from the north-west and dry for most of the U.K and Ireland. I say most because there’s still a risk that low will push wintry showers into Scotland overnight into Saturday and that these may still be present by dawn. Eastern coasts will also share an increased risk of snow showers through the day, but for most it will be bright, dry and bitingly cold with temperatures not getting much above 3-4°C during the day because of the strong north-westerly wind. Sunday looks similar but with an increased risk of rain across the south and west of Ireland and this threatens to push across The Irish Sea into Wales, The South West and later England by close of play Sunday. Maybe just maybe feeling slightly milder on Sunday as that low pulls in milder air from The Atlantic. So possibly 5-7°C despite the continued presence of a very strong, north-westerly wind.

Weather Outlook

So last week Unisys Weather stopped producing their GFS 10-day output that I have relied upon for years to interpret. It may be back some time in the future but as usual with big American corporations they don’t tell you anything other than what’s written on the website, which isn’t a lot. So I’m going to move on to WXCHARTS for my output and it will be their GIF appearing at the top of the blog, thanks to them for their courtesy in letting me use their output. Thanks also to Metman James for his continued output on Twitter, it really helps to try and pull the threads together for what I think is an uncertain picture.

The above is a schematic of the various weather models and the output relates to pressure so when you see a dip below the dotted line it is indicating low pressure, unsettled conditions and above it a move to high pressure, more settled conditions, usually dry, cold, frosty for this time of year.  So you can see the models tend to point towards more settled conditions from the weekend going into next week and that’s good because so does the output of WXCHARTS. Their output below suggests high pressure is set to form over the U.K from the beginning of next week and hold station for pretty much the whole week.

So next week looks to start off reasonably dry and settled across Ireland and the west but we will still have that low pressure sitting over the south-east of England so expect unsettled conditions for the east and south-east on Monday as that low gradually drifts off into the continent. High pressure then takes over with dry, settled conditions and if skies clear, a frost for Monday night.  Late on Tuesday, a rain front pushes into Ireland and this heads west to affect the north and western half of the U.K through Wednesday falling as snow again at elevation I think. The winds will be northerly in nature as they are for the leading edge of a high pressure system so it’ll remain very cold. On Thursday the winds will change to easterly and that’ll prevent the front from progressing too much further east but it will also mean a greater risk of snow on the leading edge of that front. So I think a mainly dry end to next week with a predominantly easterly airflow keeping temperatures down.

So this is my first go at interpreting different output and we will see how accurate it is, to me it’s like learning a new language after all those years with Unisys.

Agronomic Notes


Thanks to everyone who dropped by our stand at BTME 2019 last week and to those who attended my talk on the Tuesday. Thanks Sami for sorting arrangements !

As usual I was pretty nervous and my heart rate jumped from 45 to 90 just before I started my stint !

Yes, it was a different layout, sometimes to me it felt a little like trying to get out of IKEA, but I think we have to try something different for our industry and BIGGA should be applauded for that.

Lastly, I can only apologise for anyone within earshot of a certain Adi Masters on Tuesday night. Many of you will know that Adi likes a sing-song and so it was in the restaurant and hotel bar to the wee hours. Unfortunately his repartee seemed to be limited to Bohemian Rhapsody and American Pie, but he knows every verse 🙁

Disease pressure and tricky conditions underfoot

The image above (aah Unisys I miss you) was included in my BTME presentation and showed the source of the warm air and humidity that made life so tricky from a disease perspective between Christmas and The New Year.

Well exactly the same thing happened at the end of last week with high pressure again pulling in mild, humid air into the U.K and Ireland.

Here’s the schematic at midday on Friday last week and you can see the same phenomenon….

So we saw a rapid rise in air temperature above hard, frozen ground (some with snow cover) at the start of the day from freezing to mild, balmy (barmy) and humid by the afternoon.

That gave us some really tricky conditions from a playability perspective with a thawing surface layer on top of a frozen base. Always difficult to manage from a player and health & safety perspective.

The graph below from my Netatmo Weather Station highlights the rapid transition perfectly ;

It is no surprise then that this rapid increase in temperature caused increased activity of Microdochium nivale.

Recently I conducted some research work looking at the growth of Microdochium nivale mycelium in response to air temperature and it is particularly relevant to this type of scenario.

At an air temperature of 11°C, Microdochium nivale is growing at around 75% of the rate it is growing at 15°C, so it is easy to see why this sort of weather dynamic led to increased disease activity on many sites, particularly those where existing scarring was already present. Thankfully the disease peak was short-lived because by Saturday lunchtime the wind strengthened and the humidity and temperature began to drop to a point where on Sunday morning we were just 1.5°C. So another disease peak, this time in late January, boy it is one long disease season 🙁

Thankfully the outlook for the foreseeable is for low disease pressure and although the projection is for high pressure to establish next week, it will be pulling in northerly and easterly air so by no means warm and humid as we have experienced recently.

Dry January ?

After last week at BTME I’m not referring to your likely alcohol consumption for the rest of this month though it might well be apt, I am talking about the lack of rain.

Now I know the rainfall has been westerly / south-westerly / northerly biased, but it’s a fact that The Midlands and areas further south and east are experiencing a dry winter. January may indeed go down as the driest for a number of years with only 13.5mm measured in my rain gauge so far this month and 19mm for Birmingham (thanks Jon).

Looking at some weather station output across the south and east, I found the following rainfall totals ;

Milton Keynes   19mm   / Camberley   30.5mm   / Reigate  17.8mm  / Sevenoaks  15mm  / Braintree 16mm  / Norwich 41mm

Now I know plenty of you have had more rain than this and in itself this type of weather is great for cracking on with winter project work and for playability on the golf course but the lack of water continues to worry me.

If we run into February with a high pressure blocking pattern that will mean a drier than usual month and if (hopefully) by March temperatures are on the rise, we will be back into positive E.T. Now yes there are lots of presumptions there but I harbour a concern that reservoirs are 30-40% down on where they normally would be for this time of year and we will go into this spring / summer on the back foot from a water reserves perspective in some areas of the country.

Dove-tail that in with the U.K governments fixation on building new houses everywhere (whilst not bothering to invest in infrastructure mind) and the increased requirement for water from domestic homeowners and you have a recipe for water restrictions.

I can remember the last time this happened and the golf industry for one wasn’t particularly well treated from my recollection.

Remember also we went into the autumn / winter with the most significant dry-down of rootzones on outfield for 40 years, so there’s plenty of very dry soil out there once you scratch below the surface. Plenty of these areas still need to recover before the summer so let us hope we have good amounts of rain before the drying cycle begins again.

Ok that’s it for this week, if all goes to plan we should be set on a 1p.m. publishing time for the blog provided nothing goes wrong from an I.T perspective and of course I get it finished before then !!!

All the best for the coming week, wrap up well, watch your rain (snow) radar to keep abreast of the likely track of the weather on Tuesday and Thursday p.m. in particular and above all, stay safe. I use Netweather for this purpose but there’s plenty of other good radar weather sites out there. You can find the basic service here.

Mark Hunt




January 21st

Hi All,

So today is ‘Blue Monday’, the day officially dubbed as the most depressing of the year 🙁

Well it isn’t snowing, the first Snowdrops and Hellebores are out, we don’t (yet) have a ‘Beast from the East’ and we are heading to spring as the mornings and particularly the nights are beginning to draw out. I was walking yesterday afternoon at 4.30 p.m. without need for a head torch and I saw my largest flocks of Lapwings I’ve seen for years accompanied by Golden Plover, a good sign as they’ve been absent for a long while.

Talking of nature, my late brood of Hedgepigs went into hibernation early last week, some 2 months after their adult parents and I’m hopeful they’ll be fine come spring whenever that is.

It amazes me that they have done this 3-4 days before the cold weather arrives for the last few years now. I wish I had their forecasting nous.

A short blog this week as I have to ship out for BTME and try and bag a space in The Studley car park 🙂

So without further ado, let’s see what Mother Nature has in store for us…

General Weather Situation

So as predicted last week (I have to do this for my own diminutive ego you know 🙂 ) Monday is starting off quiet and largely dull with light winds and scattered cloud. In some places the sky was clear enough overnight to see the Lunar Eclipse and the Blood Moon (or if you’re in the media, a Super Blood Wolf Moon) and these places will be starting off with a ground frost this morning. After a weekend of practically no wind (how still it was yesterday), we see the wind start to ramp up during the morning and that’ll precede a rain front pushing into West Ireland and north-west Scotland by the afternoon and then rapidly moving across country. Where that moist air hits the entrenched cold front it’ll turn readily to snow, especially at elevation. By the early evening it’ll be into Wales and north-west England, here falling as a mix of rain, sleet and snow. It’ll then move inland into northern England falling more as snow on the leading edge of the front, probably reaching Harrogate around last orders for Weatherspoons 🙂 A pretty cold day before the (slightly) milder, wetter air arrives at 2-4°C for the U.K and pushing up to 7°C for Western Ireland. Winds will freshen to strong to moderate and be from the south-west for most places.

Overnight into Tuesday that front sinks south and turns more readily to rain over central and southern England but we will still see snow over Scotland and Northern England in the early hours. By dawn we are looking at a better picture with just some scattered wintry showers across Ireland, the north-west coast of Wales, England and Scotland. Some of these wintry showers could still sneak easterly into northern England during the morning so again Harrogate may just be in the firing line. The likelihood is that the snow will be more over elevated areas of The South West, Wales, north-west, northern England and western Scotland. Away from these showers, a reasonably day with some winter sunshine, but feeling pretty raw at 2-4°C again. The wind will swing from south-westerly to north-westerly and that’ll bring in some pretty nippy windchill. Still that raw fresh air will do good for heads that may be a bit hazy (from all the education 🙂 )

Wednesday sees a much better start for the day with scattered cloud, some winter sunshine and for many a ground frost. That dry picture continues through the morning and in fact we should see a much clearer, brighter afternoon with long spells of sunshine. Ireland will likely stay cloudy with a risk of some early wintry showers across Donegal and we may also see some wintry showers across North Wales and The Lakes later in the afternoon. Clear skies in the winter mean that it’ll be a cold one with temperatures again sitting in the 2-4°C range in a strong to moderate north-westerly wind.

Overnight into Thursday and we see a weather front bring rain across Ireland in the early hours. This front will push more cloud cover in from the west avoiding a frost for western areas of the U.K, but the flip side is we may see some wintry showers following in with it. So likely we will see frost across the eastern side of the U.K, just holding above freezing elsewhere with the cloud cover. Ireland looks to start wet, grey and pretty miserable I’m afraid as that overnight rain front sits squarely over the country. Through the late morning, this front will push eastwards reaching The South West, West Wales, the north-west coast of England and west coast of Scotland by lunchtime. Again it may fall as snow along the leading edge but it should soon turn to rain as milder air follows on behind it. This front is pretty slow-moving so I don’t expect it to cross into The Midlands and Central England till later on Thursday evening. Temperatures, yes you guessed it, 2-4°C for the U.K but for Ireland with that wetter air, a much milder feel, up around 9°C across the west.

The wind will swing round from the north-westerlies of mid-week to westerly / south-westerly and that’ll pull milder air in for the end of the week. So Friday sees that slow-moving weather front of thick cloud and some rain straddled over most of the U.K and Ireland at dawn, but on the flip side it’ll feel a little milder as you start the last day of the week. As we progress through the morning that cloud cover will lessen and the rain will become isolated to Western Scotland and The Borders. Ireland should also dry up, but still stay very grey with thick cloud cover and rain isolated to North Connacht and Donegal. As hinted earlier, a much milder end to the week with 8-9°C for most areas in a fresh westerly wind.

The outlook for the weekend is ‘mixed’ depending on your location as a front of heavy rain is expected to push into the southern half of the U.K through Saturday morning leaving Ireland, the far north of England and Scotland with a much nicer day, mild and sunny wouldn’t you know. (I say mild, I mean 6-8°C). So a wet start to Saturday for England and Wales and that rain, sleet, wintry shower mix will slowly move south-east so for some areas you may be wet all day. We could see it brighten up behind that rain for Wales, The Midlands and The south West for the 2nd half of the day. Yes you’ve guessed it though, where the skies clear, the temperature drops and we may see a ground frost following on from a wet day for Saturday night, early Sunday morning. So Sunday looks again to be the better day of the weekend and I’ll be hauling myself out of bed early to walk over frosty, but hard, muddy fields before they thaw ! Bright, cold, but sunny for the west on Sunday I think, but maybe still dull and wet across central and eastern coasts as that low is slow to depart.

Weather Outlook

Well this week I have no Unisys Weather as they have gone offline and quiet honestly it’s like losing a long-standing friend. Fortunately I have some alternative GFS output to analyse but that’s why there’s no animated GIF at the start of this blog 🙁 Hopefully it’ll be back next week or maybe it’s changing to a pay-for-content sight, time will tell.

So next week looks to start off dull and probably largely dry as that low that brought rain over the weekend slopes off into The North Sea. I say probably because if it’s slow-moving it could still have significant moisture with it across the eastern part of the U.K and this may fall as snow / wintry showers. It’ll also be pulling in north winds so I think it’ll feel pretty cold and raw. As we progress through the week, Atlantic high pressure looks to exert itself once again temporarily, but since it’s sitting out west of us, it’ll pull down colder, northerly air along its leading front, so cold, dry and likely dull through till late Wednesday / early Thursday. Thereafter a cold, northerly low pressure pushes rain, sleet and snow into Scotland and then moves south over all the U.K and Ireland bringing north-westerly winds with it. If this does indeed occur it’ll create a trough pattern in the jet stream and this will mark the start of some pretty entrenched cold weather I think but there’s a lot of uncertainty over this. The current GFS projections are that this low will deepen and intensify to bring snow I think to many areas along with cold temperatures for the beginning of February. I hope not as that’s the first day of the fly fishing season at Thornton 🙁

You can see how the models looks courtesy of a tweet from James Warner, with a milder peak over the first part of the weekend before the pressure drops down next week as that low pressure pulls in and brings unsettled weather for the weekend and beyond.

Agronomic Notes

Using growth when you can….

So last week I spent a lot of time talking about one of the negative consequences of the mild weather through December and the beginning of January, namely Microdochium nivale.

This week I want to chat briefly about the other side of the coin, that is using this type of weather to your advantage.

Above is a schematic of the Growth Potential through December and the 1st half of January for a location in Central England and you can clearly see we have had significant amounts of growth. The positive sides of this growth is that it has allowed / facilitated recovery on areas of turf scarred earlier in the autumn, particularly those where the surface organic matter levels are lowest.

It has also allowed many of you on sportsfields and golf alike to aerate, be that vertidraining, spiking, slitting, solid tining or indeed for a growing number, hollow coring.

I was heartened by the number of courses hollow coring in early January during the dry spell of weather we had and for me that’s a big box ticked. Many of those operations undertaken before Christmas are already on their way to recovery and every mild spell peak we get, no matter how short-lived, will assist this process. It then means come the traditional aeration period of March / April you can be a bit more selective about the type of work you carry out and when.

Now I appreciate many of you will have a fixed week in the diary whatever and no flexibility to change this one way or another time-wise. The flexibility then will come in the type of aeration you do according to the type of growing season we are in at the time.

Look at 2017 / 18, we had a significantly different first four months of the year, with 2017 offering a lovely spring and growth commencing late on in February.

Contrast that with 2018, when a late SSW event brought us the start of winter in mid-February and a predominantly easterly airflow. We didn’t snap out of this until the middle of April.

You can see the contrasting Spring seasons in the cumulative GDD output below ;

Now come your allocated aeration date, you may think very differently about the type of work you’re going to undertake in a 2017 scenario than you might in a 2018, or at least I hope you would anyway. It may mean you alter tine size, depth of aeration or maybe cancel a hollow coring in place of scarifying, with an option to repeat that work later in the spring. If the weather patterns and growth are looking favourable, the opposite may apply.

Either way it is all about adapting to our changing environment and not only is that legislation-driven, but also climatic. It isn’t just about the groundsman or greenkeeper adapting, the outlook by the club itself must change in the face of this double-sided threat. I was amazed to be sent a copy of a letter from a golfer to the club management complaining about vertidrain work being carried out in mid-December. Work that by early January was largely fully recovered ? Communication is key. Why are we aerating, what is the objective and what is the background from an industry perspective.

Using your family as a case study 🙂

My mum is a keen golfer, even at 85, she plays all-year round. Our conversations of late have been focussed on ‘Fusarium’ (I daren’t try and introduce her to the proper name just yet) and why it is such a problem now when she never really noticed it before.

I showed her a slide of a green with 10% Microdochium cover and asked her if she thought that was acceptable conditions for mid-winter, she did. I then showed her a slide with 45% Microdochium cover and not surprisingly she didn’t think that was acceptable. I explained to her the double challenge of legislation and climate that we are facing as an industry and the consequences it can bring if we are unprepared or simply unlucky to get our ducks in a row before heavy disease pressure. Her attitude changed through the course of the conversation from a stance of wanting part of her sub back to one of acknowledgement of the problem.

Maybe easier for me to explain to my mum than you with to your members, but communication is the way forward in my books.

Looking ahead, the SSW event in late December is really dragging its feet in terms of affecting our weather down in the troposphere despite the hysterical attempts of our media to highlight otherwise. If we do indeed move to a trough pattern come the beginning of February, you may be faced with these type of conditions if you are planning on aeration in February 🙂

Ok that’s it for this week, short and sweet, not unlike myself 🙂

I hope to see you at Harrogate, a cold start to the week, maybe rain, maybe sleet, maybe snow  in-between and a mild end, not so predictable eh Jim ??? 🙂

All the best…

Mark Hunt

January 14th

Hi All,

My first blog of 2019 and a Happy New Year to you all…

So we endured a really mild and a really dull Christmas period with precious little sunshine or frost. With temperatures up in the teens on occasion you can’t blame nature for being a bit confused with spring bulbs well on their way to flowering.

The October-born Hedgehog litter that visits my garden have kept on feeding, taking advantage of this mild spell to fatten up for when winter will inevitably start. The advice is that Hedgehogs need to be around 600gms to last the hibernation process and as you can see from the image below, some of my lot have reached 575gms, so nearly there.

And that’s a good job because winter is due to start this week and I expect them to hibernate 2-3 days before as if they always seem to know it is around the corner.

The Christmas period and early January was characterised by mild weather conditions, nothing unusual in that really, but actually there was.

Mild weather in the winter is usually the result of Atlantic low pressure systems. pushing in windy, wet and mild air. This time the heat came from an Atlantic high pressure system and that in my books is highly unusual. Normally high pressure in the winter means cold, dry, sunny and frosty with mist or fog but that isn’t what we got. This weather system brought in mild air, lots of cloud, no wind and very little else. This of course had huge ramifications for disease activity which I will cover later in the blog.

You may remember my last blog of 2018, the meteorologists were predicting a Sudden Stratospheric Warming (SSW) during December and indeed it occurred on December 29th. Last year it took just over 2 weeks for the SSW to affect the wind direction in the troposphere and turn it to easterly, the rest is history. This one is on a slower burn and in fact only 43% of SSW events actually result in a changing of the weather patterns that affect you or I.

So will this SSW event pan out as another Beast from the east scenario ?

It now looks like the picture above will change subtly over the next 10 days with the trough pattern edging further west and that could bring winter our way. So let’s put some detail on it…

General Weather Picture

So Monday starts with a mainly dull picture across the U.K and Ireland, although sitting here I can see some breaks in the cloud as the sun is rising. There are some wintry showers around over The North East but these will edge out into The North Sea through the morning. After that the scene is set on another dull day with light to moderate winds and precious little sunshine except maybe for the north-east of Scotland. Temperature-wise, we are looking at 8-10°C.

Tuesday sees rain edge into north-west Scotland overnight and push slowly southwards so by dawn it’s into Central Scotland and The Borders. South and west of this sees a re-run of Monday with a calm but dull start to the day for England, Wales and Ireland. As we move through the morning that rain over Scotland drops south into northern England and at the same time intensifies over north-west Scotland, falling as wintry showers over elevation. So for most another ‘dull as dishwater’ day with similar temperatures to Monday albeit with a fresh westerly wind.

Overnight into Wednesday and we see that rain front over Scotland push into north-west Ireland and move eastwards across Ireland during the small hours edging into West Wales, the north-west of England and Scotland by dawn. This band of rain and wintry showers will edge eastwards brightening up behind it across Ireland as it does, reaching The Midlands by lunchtime and central / eastern areas by the afternoon. If anything the mix of rain and wintry showers tends to intensify over north-west England / The Lake District through the latter part of the day with other areas brightening up as skies clear. Slightly cooler through Wednesday as the wind swings more northerly across Scotland and introduces cooler air but this change won’t become apparent further south till Thursday. Here a westerly wind will prevail but with clearing skies temperatures will drop to around freezing for Thursday morning.

So Thursday starts a good bit cooler for most with a ground frost in places. A much brighter start to the day than we have been used to as well with most of those wintry showers dying out overnight and moving off into The North Sea. So cool but bright on Thursday with a strong to moderate north-westerly wind now in situ. As we progress through the morning, we see cloud cover push in from the west for Ireland as another Atlantic low pressure front approaches. This cloud cover pushes east across Wales and central areas as we approach dusk, but the east should stay relatively clear and bright all day. By dusk the rain that threatened is now into the west of Ireland and will push eastwards overnight falling as wintry showers at elevation. So a much cooler feel to Thursday with that north-westerly wind direction, expect temperatures around 4-5°C at best, quite a drop since the start of the week.

Overnight into Friday that rain front over Ireland pushes eastwards reaching The South West and South Wales by the small hours and falling as sleet over Dartmoor and The Black Mountains. By dawn the mix of rain, sleet and snow is placed diagonally from Connacht down to south-east Munster and extending across South Wales into The South West. East and north of this front, we start the day dull, cold and dry over the majority of England and Scotland. As we progress through Friday morning the front edges along the south coast of England and across Wales, clearing Ireland from the west as it does. The skies will also clear across Scotland for the 2nd half of Friday to leave a cold, but clear end to the day. As we approach Friday afternoon / evening this mix of moisture has edged further eastwards into The Midlands and south-east of England, falling as sleet across elevation. We may also see that mix of wintry showers sit across east Leinster and bring a Christmas Pudding dusting to The Sugar Loaf and the mountains of Wicklow 🙂 Another cold one with temperatures barely breaking 6°C all day with the wind having switched round to north-easterly / easterly.

So what’s the outlook for the weekend look like ?

Well we may still have some of that overnight mix of rain and sleet / wintry showers sitting over the southern half of England first off but this will soon move off into The North Sea to leave a bright but cold Saturday and indeed Sunday for most. So dry, bright and cold would be my prognosis once we have lost that early Saturday front. The wind will be strongly from the north on Saturday so they’ll be a pronounced windchill but as we go into Sunday, the winds will drop and it’ll feel a little nicer because of this. Still cold though with frosts likely on both Saturday and Sunday nights.

Weather Outlook

So this is where life gets interesting…

So next week looks like starting off pretty calm and settled after a not-so-bad weekend for many with dull conditions and a north-westerly wind for Monday. It should be pretty dry though. As we go through Tuesday the winds begin to ramp up as a very intense low pressure system threatens to swing down through the 2nd half of the day bringing some strong winds and heavy rain / wintry showers to Wales and England in particular. This continues through Wednesday with some very strong north-westerly winds and heavy wintry showers especially over Scotland initially. Much colder air is likely to push south to all areas for the 2nd half of Wednesday with snow more likely across all areas and a bitter windchill because of that wind strength and direction. Thursday at this stage looks like a continuation of those strong north-westerly winds but less intense wintry showers rather than a concentrated band of snow.

Now a big caveat, things can change for sure and this deep low could just roll over the top of us into Europe as it has done so far this winter, but this one looks different and if it occurs could mark the start of a longer-term trough pattern for the U.K and Ireland. If this is the case we will see much colder air push down with a higher likelihood of snow and it may last.

Agronomic Notes

Since this is my first blog of 2019 it would be pertinent to look at how the year ended up GDD-wise after such a year of extremes. The yearly summary from my Netatmo Weather Station kind of says it all though, 36.5°C highest temperature, just 438mm of rain all year and a -7.7°C low !

December 2018 – GDD Summary – Thame Location

So looking at December in isolation, the Thame location came in with a total GDD of 37, which is around about average, nothing special either way. The yearly total GDD of 2055 is only just shy of 2017’s total, despite finishing March such a long way behind. Is there any pattern to this ?

I was chatting this through with Mr Kirby of Syngenta and we surmised that there wasn’t a great deal of consistency in terms of a general GDD trend year-on-year, but that’s hardly surprising when you think this is just a 9-year snap shot. We also know that during some years we got SSW events that dealt us a cold winter and spring and others we didn’t.

Interestingly I charted out the GDD totals from May to December which effectively removes any influence of SSW (as they tend to occur and affect our weather from Jan onwards)

I think I can see the beginning of a pattern with our GDD increasing by 3-5% over the last 4 years from May to December. (Glenn???)

The devil is in the detail as they say because these totals hide some really big agronomic effects  such as ;

Prolonged hot and dry periods with record summer temperatures and E.T levels. This has left some areas of the country still deficient in rainfall as we tip-toe into the following year with a threat of reduced abstraction and water restrictions likely if we don’t get a top up before summer starts again. You only have to look at the number of new housing estates springing up all over the country to know that the demand for water is only going one way and for sure the water companies are nervously looking at their water table figures with a view to Summer 2019.

Not for all parts of the country that’s for sure, but for some I think….

Our soil moisture deficit going into the autumn of 2018 was 2x the previous year and rather than just being a figure, I think some of the effects of the summer heat weren’t really appreciated until afterwards. For sure we saw a dry-down of not only surface organic matter but also deep into the rootzone profile below our fairways, rough and outfield. This has made soil profiles (not just the surface layer) hydrophobic and many autumn over-seeding efforts were I think thwarted by a dry surface fibre layer and also a dry soil underneath.

Last but definitely not least we have Microdochium activity which I think was the worst we have endured. Not in terms of peaks of activity in October but more so what followed during December and into January. I will look at this in more detail further down the blog and open up a bit of a discussion on just where we are going as a industry..

GDD & Rainfall Summary – December 2018 – UK Locations

Well one of most variable graphs I’ve done for a while in terms of rainfall and GDD totals. As with some of my past graphs, the south-west of England picks up the wettest weather with nearly 10″ (247.2mm) recorded for our Devon location (my sympathies Pete) and similar amounts for Wales as well I’m told. You can see the localised effect of rainfall as well with 108.2 recorded for Central Birmingham and 53.6mm recorded for Market Harborough less than 50 miles away.

From a GDD perspective, a lot of variability here as well ranging from 24.3 in Fife (though similarly low in York as well) right up to 69.4 down in Guildford (it must be the warming effect of the M25!) . On a serious note though that’s approximately 3x the growth for the south of England vs. the east of Scotland.

GDD & Rainfall Summary – December 2018 – Irish Locations

Just like the south-west of England, the south-west of Ireland picks up the highest rainfall total (278.6mm) by a long way, but you can see the spread of rain across Ireland was extremely variable. 3x the rainfall for Cork compared to Dublin ! The south and west of Ireland again came out with higher rainfall totals as it has done all year.

GDD-wise, again significant variability with Valentia the highest at 120.4 (that’s nearly double the highest total from a U.K location) right down to Cavan and Claremorris, which came in at 51.1 and 52.7 respectively. Low for Ireland but much higher than many U.K locations for the same period.

Microdochium nivale – Disease Pressure – Autumn / Winter 2018 / 19

Without a doubt the autumn winter period has been challenging in terms of keeping a clean sward from a Microdochium perspective. The advent of a mild Atlantic high pressure appearing in December and lasting through to January has been a real game changer in my mind because rather than just seeing activity on existing disease scars, we also saw very aggressive new activity late in the year.

This level of disease activity is set against a background of reduced fungicide options and the first season without Iprodione as a curative control. Normally when we saw activity late in the year we would reach for this active ingredient in front of any other because of its local penetrant action and the ability to knock back new disease.

With this option missing on the Chemsafe shelf there was no way of stopping new infection unless you were fortunate enough to have applied a systemic fungicide period to the Christmas period. I say this because spray windows leading up to Christmas were few and far between, it was very wet and also windy. Even then I have had reports of some of these applications not achieving control of new disease activity such was the extent of the disease pressure.

Existing scars showed significant movement as well…You may remember in a previous blog I marked the outside of some disease scars with dots of white paint when I was doing a trial.

Two such scars are shown below ;

The disease scars shown below aren’t the exact same ones but were marked the same way on the 27th November.

The pictures were taken on the 17th December (before the worst outbreak but after significant pressure in the 1st part of December)

You can clearly see the previously-affected area in the centre of the patch showing signs of recovery but the white dots no longer mark the edge of the affected area as the patch has grown visibly outwards. I’ll update with a January image in due course…

So why was the Christmas period so bad for Microdochium ? (and also Red Thread it has to be said..).

Well blame it all on that Atlantic high pressure system because it gave us mild, humid air and no wind, so night and day temperatures varied little and the leaf stayed wet for long periods of time.

The graph above shows the period from December 20th through to January 13th and looks at maximum and minimum air temperature as well as humidity.

The period of weather that really did it for disease pressure started on the 26th December and carried right through to the 29th December unabated. What characterised this period so markedly was a night and day temperature  > 6°C and 100% humidity for the whole period.

So in other words, the plant leaf sat wet for 72 hours and provided an ideal environment for Microdochium nivale. The air temperature maintained above 6°C day and night through this period which I now know allowed for significant development of Microdochium nivale.

I say ‘now know’ because I have just completed a population growth curve study with 2 different Microdochium nivale isolates, one from the U.K and one from Germany (to keep neutrality in the Brexit debate 🙂 ) looking at fungal growth vs. air temperature.

I will present the findings in my talk at BTME next week but suffice to say this pathogen has a healthy growth rate at 5°C….:(

Microdochium nivale – Where do we go from here ?

So we experienced very high disease pressure probably at a time when it is fair to say we didn’t expect it. It also emanated from a weather pattern that was unusual in my experience for the end of December / start of January.

Some of the clubs that had weathered the worst up until this time were caught out and sustained high disease scarring even though they may have applied 3-4 preventative fungicides prior to Christmas leading some to question whether they were actually better off for having applied 4 fungicides ?

For me without a doubt the degree of scarring would have been so much higher without keeping the disease pathogen population lower on the run up to this period. I know this because I’ve seen the untreated areas in trials at the S.T.R.I, in my own field trials and where some end-users have attempted to go through this period without a fungicide. That said I am not dismissive of the sentiment behind such thinking. We know modern-day fungicides contain far less A.I than their past counterparts and as stated earlier we no longer have the luxury of a contact-curative so we aren’t by anyone’s admission in the same boat as we once were.

It is also unfair to point the finger solely at pesticides because now more than ever we have to have an effective overall IPM program in place. It’s no longer good enough to pay lip service to this statement because climate and legislation have tipped the balance firmly in favour of the pathogen.

All is far from lost but it does mean we have to pay more attention to surface organic matter, cultivar mix, dew dispersal and non-pesticidal treatments than maybe we once did when we had an effective safety net of pesticides at our disposal.

It is going to take some education as well within clubs because the average Joe isn’t used to disease scarring and we need to explain to management and members alike that we have to implement an effective IPM program. That means aeration, overseeding and everything else we know is necessary but also some fine tuning of tolerance to a level of disease scarring because of the reasons I have already highlighted.

Disease on drier, more open greens vs. wetter ones…

Now here’s a thing…

Plenty of you have fed back to me that you have seen consistently worse disease on your more open, free-draining greens and precious little on your soil based, wetter greens. Logic would suggest this should be the other way round surely ?

Sometimes it isn’t though and it has got everyone I think scratching their collective heads a little..

I have discussed it before as a noted phenomenon, so what may be the cause behind this disease pattern ?

Well firstly greens that have a higher sand content will hold less water and will usually (if the sand is the correct particle size) hold more air than their equivalent soil based counterpart. Now we know that gas heats up and cools down quicker than liquid so one theory of mine is that a higher sand content green will heat up faster than a soil green and this will encourage a higher pathogen population (because we know that the speed of mycelium growth and spore germination of Microdochium nivale both increase with temperature)

This is my SWAG answer (Scientific wild arsed guess – copyright Dr James Beard) but to me its logicial, do I have proof ? No.

My second theory relates to the survivability of Microdochium nivale spores with respect to temperature and moisture. We know from research conducted in agriculture on Microdochium nivale populations in Winter Wheat that spore survival is poor during periods of cool, wet conditions and high during drier winters, regardless of temperature. So I am wondering whether a soil green that sits wet during the autumn / winter will actually have a lower level of viable spores than a sand / soil or USGA-spec rootzone ?

Please note, this is a separate discussion from Microdochium nivale mycelium, i.e the behaviour of the fungus itself once the spore has germinated. Here we know plant leaf wetness encourages growth of the pathogen, period. One reason why I favour the spore viability theory is that I tend to see the phenomenon of more aggressive Microdochium on drier, more open-aspect greens once we reach the spring and it begins to warm up. The fact we have seen it now on some courses is I think because of the unusually warm weather patterns I have discussed earlier.

Ok that’s it for this week, I have a lot more to say but as usual I’m going to run out of time. I hope to see some of you at Harrogate next week and yes I know I’m always yapping on the stand but I’ll do my best to say hello and have time 🙂

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All the best for the coming year.

Mark Hunt