April 8th

Hi All,

According to my projections, this week was due to be south-westerly winds, mild with rain but since the writing of my blog last week, a blocking high pressure has intervened so unhappy to report a different outlook (as here we need the rain) with easterlies the order of the week. Bit of a Haar-affected weekend, particularly Sunday when we saw very little of the sun over these parts and consequently low cloud covered the countryside but when we get easterlies, that’s the order of the day for the east Midlands.

Bit of a hectic Monday today, so without further ado it’s onto this week’s weather…

General Weather Situation

So Monday looks to start dry and reasonably mild with overnight temperatures high enough to avoid a ground frost. Through the morning thicker cloud will push in from the continent to bring rain to the south-east of England and later in the morning central areas as well. As I write this blog at 0735, you can see the line of developing showers clearly on Netweather’s V8 radar.

Image courtesy of Netweather.tv

This band of rain will stretch into Wales, across The Irish Sea and right up to Cork and Connacht as we go through the morning into the afternoon bringing rain to The Midlands as it does so. It’s a very narrow band of rain so south and north of it will see sunshine and mild conditions with very pleasant temperatures. For the U.K if you drew a line from Kent up through The Midlands to North Wales, this looks the worst-affected area. South and north of this will see sunny intervals and a very nice day with plenty of sunshine and warm temperatures for the north of England and Scotland once the Haar breaks. Winds will swing round from the north-east to the south-east through the day but they’ll be light to moderate. Temperature-wise expect 13-16°C depending on your location and cloud cover.

A mild night going into Tuesday and that rain band intensifies overnight to bring heavy rain to north Kent, Essex, Suffolk, Central London and then west to North Wales. It’s a really odd phenomenon because of the orientation and narrowness of the band so it’s easier to show you how it’s orientated in an image (below)

Image courtesy of Meteoblue

So you can see how tight it is and being slow-moving we can expect the rainfall totals to be significant if you happen to be sitting under this rain. Now it is continental rain and so carries plenty of caveats. I could easily see it moving north or south from its current projection. Through the morning the rain intensifies in this band and moves westerly into Wales, across The Irish Sea and then into Ireland for the afternoon principally affecting the southern half of Ireland. Some of this rain will drift south into The South West of England through the morning.  North of this narrow band we will see a cloudy start but across Ireland, the north-west and west of Scotland, the sun will break through and it’ll be a pleasant day for many but feeling cooler in a strengthening easterly wind despite the sunshine. Expect temperatures around 10-12°C  regardless of whether you’re under the cloud base or not.

Onto Wednesday and after a cold start with ground frost likely overnight we still see showers feeding off the continent into the east of England and Midlands pulling with it some thick cloud. So Wednesday morning looks dull particularly for the bottom half of England with that rain stubbornly staying across the south-east and if anything drifting further south during the late morning / early afternoon. Plenty of cloud then for southern England and Wales but after a grey start we will see sunny intervals from The Midlands north, the same for Ireland. Slowly that stubborn band of rain and thick cloud drifts south and west into The South West clearing the south-east for the first time this week. Very similar temperatures to Tuesday with a moderate to strong easterly / north-easterly wind in situ, so that’s 10-12°C.

Overnight into Thursday and we see a rain front push thick cloud and some rain into Ireland from the off with the west affected initially. So a really murky day for Ireland and Wales actually with thick cloud, some of it thick enough to fall as rain / heavy drizzle for Ireland. Further east across England and north to Scotland, not a bad day really as the cloud breaks to give some sunny intervals for the south-east. Elsewhere it’ll stay cloudy for most of the day and that’ll cap the temperatures off to only high single figures. A Haar day for sure with that easterly wind still pushing a low cloud base off The North Sea. Dull and dry would sum up Thursday for the U.K.

Closing out the week on Friday we see that thicker cloud base and rain over Ireland push north and west into Scotland overnight with some of the showers falling as snow over elevation.  That’s the order of the day for Ireland, thick cloud with some rain, dull and cool and pretty much the same for Scotland with wintry showers feeding off The Irish Sea into western and central areas through the day. Further south for England and Wales, a dry, cloudy day with not a lot of sunshine around except on eastern coasts where you may see the sun break through later in the day. That easterly wind will lighten and that’ll allow temperatures to just nudge up into double figures but cool for April I’d say. As we close out Friday evening we see a large band of rain push into Ireland overnight to bring a wet end to the week I am afraid.

The weekend is a battle between Atlantic pressure across the west and high pressure across the continent and at present they’re saying that the low will not make headway beyond Ireland. Here’s the Meteocentre schematic for the end of the week…

So it’s no surprise for Ireland that your weekend looks a wet one but time will tell how wet and for how long. So for the U.K I reckon at this stage it’ll be dry but much depends on the play between these two weather systems. If the low begins to dominate, that’ll rain will push eastwards into the U.K. If the high strengthens then the rain over Ireland may arrive later. One feature that we will see is the wind swing more south-easterly / southerly so that’ll nudge up temperatures a little and push more of the cloud away to give sunnier intervals for the weekend and at this stage dry. Don’t expect a lot to change temperature-wise, maybe 10-12°C away from that low pressure system but we should see more in the way of sunshine. If your skies are clear though that means an ever-present risk of ground frost at the weekend. Shan’t be cutting back the Penstemons just yet 🙁

Weather Outlook

With the weather so finely balanced, I am hesitant to predict next weeks with any accuracy but here goes. At present the weather guru’s have high pressure holding the fort and just keeping that low pressure at day. It doesn’t mean that it’ll stay dry everywhere though because Ireland and maybe The South West and Wales will pick up some heavier rain from that low pressure on Monday and Tuesday. Elsewhere we look to stay cool and dry with south-easterly winds the feature of next week which should make it a little warmer than this week temperature-wise but remaining dry for the 2nd week in a row for many areas. Good for golf but maybe not so good for growth…That said as we have seen this week, things can change when the weather is so finely balanced between two strong weather systems and it only needs the low to nudge 100 miles further east and it’ll be a different story.

Agronomic Notes

It’s a bit of a slow spring….

To me this is kind of a weird spring, I mean it’s spring but winter still lingers and after the fast start in the 2nd half of February, it’s been kind of dribs and drabs. No real excesses of rainfall or temperature, just sort of consistent. Maybe it is because we expect extremes nowadays that when we don’t get them it seems strange.

Looking at the stats from Northampton, you can see what I mean (thanks Rob)

Growth-wise, we are there or thereabouts, we haven’t had anything that you could call a flush (except maybe for 2 days in February) and we have (in this neck of the woods at least) been dry with below average rainfall for many locations (in England particularly).

So where does this put our friend Poa annua and the spring seedhead flush ?

Well we are approaching the beginning of the seedhead flush with many locations around the 140-170 total GDD since the 1st January.  Yes, there’s evidence of some seedheads, mainly the coarser annual biotype as shown in the diagram above, but the tighter, perennial biotype will be sitting there not wanting to do much. Now in the south of England where you’re due to get that rain on Tuesday, that may be enough to move things on a little but honestly I don’t expect the main seedhead flush to start in earnest just yet. You can see from the cumulative GDD graph for this week we are pretty much flat which means no incremental growth day-on-day and effectively a growth check for at least the next week. Now in some areas it won’t just be temperature that is holding back the Poa annua, it’ll be moisture as well.

Cool and dry conditions is perhaps the worst hand we can be dealt with from a greenkeeping perspective especially as we have The Masters coming up this weekend.

The comparison is inevitable I’m afraid so I thought I’d take a look at how their season is faring vs. ours…

GDD Comparison – Augusta, Georgia vs. Northampton

So the GDD graphs above tell the story that most commentators won’t. From a GDD perspective Augusta hit the same total GDD we did yesterday on the 7th of February so temperature they aren’t short of. It’s kind of like comparing your facility now with the 7th of June, you’d hope that by then we’d have had some temperature for growth !

If you compare the daily growth potential for Augusta vs. Northampton, you can see a similar story…

Plenty of good growth there but also some real up and down periods with growth checks. My stats show 13 frosts for them in January and 2 for February and March. So they do have their own challenges that is for sure and I am not wishing to dispel them by presenting these stats, merely to point out that a comparison between the two by our industry is pretty meaningless.

Over the last week they have had temperatures in the mid to high twenties but also near 100% humidity spikes as well so from a disease perspective that would be challenging. Saying that the arsenal of products they have available from a pesticide perspective is more than up to the job, fungicide, insecticide and PGR-wise, they aren’t wanting for anything as an industry. Add in fans, grow lights, undersoil heating and being shut for half the year and you could be excused for being more than a bit envious.

Speaking of disease, these last couple of muggy days with a low cloud base and high humidity has seen an increase in activity from Microdochium. Nothing too drastic but it’s there lurking away and around existing scars from the winter.

As you can see from the Meteoturf graphic above for the south of England, not much likelihood of significant growth to grow it out I’m afraid with a whopping 12GDD projected for the week. You can also see for this location, a dollop of rain on Tuesday. There’s also a bit of Spiral Nematode activity coming to light with the familiar banding on the leaf a real give-away for this pathogen. Typically it’ll be in areas that might go under stress, struggle for roots mass, etc and will come and go with growth conditions. I usually use 180GDD as a guide for this pathogen so it’s about right on time.

Ok, Tempus fugit my friends, I have to prep for a trip to Portugal where I am talking. It is times like these that remind you how useful data is because pulling up some weather station data to understand their situation has been invaluable to me. It’s also been good training in how to use the Smiths Kern Dollar Spot model, very interesting.

All the best for the coming week.

Mark Hunt