February 4th


Hi All,

After some parts of the country received heavy snow last week, we start this week with some heavy rain to promote a rapid thaw and no doubt flooding as well for many areas. Currently (7 a.m.) as the radar picture shows, the north-east of Scotland and south-east of England is in the firing line. Aside from the likelihood of flooding, even the areas that didn’t get the snow cover (like here) will have issues with rain falling onto frozen ground. Out walking early yesterday with a starting temperature of around -6°C, the ground was rock hard (that was the intention, to be able to walk across cultivated ground without taking half of the field away on your boots:)), but the air temperature rose rapidly as the wind direction swung round to SW and the top layer soon thawed making it tricky walking. 3 1/2 hours layer when we’d finished, it was +7°C, a 13°C swing in 4 hours !. The same will be true today, rapid surface thawing over a frozen sub-layer, for me is the worst conditions on a golf course / sports pitch.

After a largely inaccurate weather outlook forecast for this week courtesy of my inability to interpret new output (Yes Mr Draper I do actually use data as opposed to a finger in the air 🙂 ) I have found some better output which matches more closely the original Unisys data, so hopefully accuracy (or inaccuracy depending on your viewpoint !) returns.

General Weather Situation

So as commented earlier we start the week unsettled, milder and windier after an Atlantic low pressure pushes over the U.K and Ireland on Monday. After that though the radar looks clear and that tallies with a forecast that suggests skies will clear and the sun will come out. The further west you are the milder it will get, with temperatures forecast to climb into double figures by lunchtime. A strong, south westerly wind as well so it wouldn’t surprise me if we see some blustery showers later but around dusk the wind changes to a north-westerly as high pressure briefly nudges in from the continent to give a cool night with a risk of ground frost.

Onto Tuesday and after a quiet night, we see the next Atlantic low pressure lining up to grace us with its presence. Into Kerry early doors, it’ll push across Ireland in time for the morning queue on the M50 and then the heaviest rain will push into The South West and South Wales mid-morning (just what you guys need…not). By lunchtime that rain will be across the south of England and most of Wales. Further north we will see rain pushing into the north-west and west of Scotland as well, pushed on by a strengthening wind in the afternoon that swings round to the south-west. By late afternoon, the forecast projects the rain will be across Ireland, heaviest in the west and most of the U.K, with the exception of the far north of Scotland. One of those days when it’ll get milder as we progress so after a cool start it’ll be into double figures again for Ireland and the west. Cooler across Central England, the north and Scotland and like Monday, it’ll be cool enough for some of that rain to fall as wintry showers across elevation. So 6-11°C looks like the temperature range, always milder to the west and windy from the south-west.

Mid-week beckons and with it Wednesday which looks a better day for most of the U.K and Ireland, with only the last of that rain clearing the south-east early doors. Scotland will see some rain, wintry showers across the north and west and this will try to push inland but largely stay isolated to the west coast. Ireland starts sunny but through the morning expect some showers to push into the west and Midlands before moving east to affect Leinster. Aside from the wintry showers across north-west Scotland, the remainder of the U.K looks to be dry all day on Wednesday so a nice one after the onslaught of snow and rain. Late in the day, possibly after dusk we may see some rain push into south Ireland and England. A moderate south-westerly wind in situ keeping things mild with temperatures ranging from 9-11°C.

Thursday sees the next Atlantic low line up on the shores of Ireland and expect showers across the west mainly throughout the day. Further inland it should stay dry and sunny across the east of Ireland. For the U.K, a messy picture really with rain moving into Wales, the north-west and west of Scotland, mid-morning. Almost in tandem we see rain push more inland across Ireland and the same for the U.K, reaching the West Midlands but maybe not much further east. So the majority of rain will be westerly on Thursday with some showers pushing inland p.m. Still that mild south-westerly wind, moderate to strong, with temperatures similar to Wednesday at 9-11°C.

Closing out the week Friday sees a continuation of that unsettled picture with rain from the off across the north-west and north / mid-Wales. Some of that rain may try to push inland across northern England giving some wintry showers across The Pennines during late morning. By the afternoon the dry, mild start that Ireland has enjoyed is brought to an end by a rain front pushing into Kerry. This will move north and east through the late afternoon, early evening and amounts will be heavy. By evening it’ll be into The South West and then overnight into Saturday it will cross the U.K pushing up from the south-west of England into Wales and then northern England by Saturday early doors. We will be bailing our boats out for sure. Continuing mild with similar temperatures to Thursday and a strengthening south west wind getting up to gale force overnight into Saturday.

So no surprise with late Friday’s forecast that the outlook for the weekend is unsettled with Saturday looking very wet for Wales, the west of England, possibly south-east Munster and northern England later. It really depends on the trajectory the rain ends up taking but since this is a NE tracking low pressure, it’s normally the west and north that’s in the firing line. Scotland will I think miss most of the rain on Saturday but it will dull and cloudy instead with some wintry showers over elevation. After clearing the rain front on Saturday morning, it’ll be a sunshine and showers day for Ireland I think but cooler than of late as the wind swings more north-westerly. Sunday looks to continue that unsettled pattern with the low sitting off the north-west of Scotland pushing in rain across Ireland and most of the U.K through the course of the day. I think Scotland will miss the worst of this although you’ll still see some showers pushing through. So a sunshine and showers day with some heavier rain for some on Sunday and a south-west wind for most of the weekend, strongest on Saturday where it will be gale force in places.

As mentioned at the start of this blog I have some new output to work with which puts me more in my comfort zone when looking beyond 7 days. For this I am indebted to Meteocentre.com, Canada for permission to use their output in this blog. Merci beaucoup mes amis.

Weather Outlook

So looking at the graphic above for the start of next week you can see low pressure is sat very firmly over the U.K and that means unsettled with westerly winds for the southern half of the U.K and easterlies for the north. So a wet start to next week I think with plenty of rain spread over the U.K and Ireland, some of it heavy. Tuesday looks a drier day for Ireland and the west but still a chance of rain and showers for the east of the U.K. Wednesday sees some heavy rain push into the west of Ireland and move eastwards but high pressure is projected to build over the continent and that will begin to nudge that rain away through mid-week and introduce more settled conditions across the south and central U.K. By Thursday we have high pressure in charge so that means drier, calmer, more settled conditions extending into Ireland and Scotland. Since we will be sitting on the leading edge of the high pressure I think southerly winds and mild (ish) will be the norm for the close of next week.

So there you have it, starting unsettled and finishing settled, let’s see how accurate that is this time next week.

Agronomic Notes

GDD Comparison – Thame Location

So we start off with having a look back at January 2019, already a month down in what will be our 10th year of running comparative GDD. Looking at the above we have a pretty low score for January, not the lowest, that honour goes to the early SSW-influenced, January 2010, but Jan 2019 will go down as a cool month on the whole, similar to 2017 really. High pressure dominated the month so as you’ll see from the GDD stats for both the U.K and Ireland, it was cool and noticeably dry.

GDD & Rainfall Comparison – U.K Locations

Bit of a southerly bias to the data but there you go..

The graph above tells a story though with pretty universally low GDD for the 9 locations I collated.

Nantwich, Cheshire gets the prize for the mildest, I’d love to say that it’s due to the presence of my old mucker, Mr Butler’s endearing warm nature, but I won’t :).

Surprisingly, the furthest south-westerly location, Okehampton is the coldest, being on the edge of Dartmoor I think means normally a very wet but obviously pretty cold location as well. Dry though for January with many locations reporting their driest month for 14 years.

GDD & Rainfall Comparison – Irish Locations

Ah dear old Valentia, this location never fails to deliver the mildest and the wettest location in our Irish dataset. Away from this we see pretty similar GDD across Ireland with all the locations showing around double the GDD of the U.K. This is to be expected as the centre of the cold weather was over the continent and so the further east you are, the cooler it gets. The converse applies. Rainfall patterns were pretty consistent, much lower than the deluge of December 2018, but Cork and Claremorris still came in towards the top of the pile. If you look at Cork, Wexford, Dublin, going up the south-east coast of Ireland, you can see the rainfall pattern drop away, with Dublin picking up just 30% of the rainfall that Cork received in January 2019.

Disease activity, snowfall and rapid thawing….All in a days work…

It is worth reflecting on some other features of January away from weather and GDD stats. I refer of course to the continued disease pressure courtesy of that Atlantic high (long since shoved off down south) that brought us such aggressive activity between Christmas and The New Year and then returned the favour towards the end of January with more mild, humid air.

This mild, humid air followed a very rapid thaw on golf courses and pitches, many of which in the south of England were under snow 2 days previously. The combination of rapid temperature rise and flat-lined 100% humidity caused both new Microdochium nivale activity and re-activity around the periphery of old scars.

So it’s not surprising that many clubs saw disease activity and further scarring during the month. What I do find surprising and a bit of a riddle is the nature of the disease activity across a site. Here’s a couple of pictures from one location.

OK, at first sight, so what, we have all seen Microdochium nivale on greens ?

The strange thing for me is that this green is the only one of 19 affected on the site. It has good airflow, no immediately obvious microclimate and actually of 4 greens tested for surface organic matter in the top 0-25mm / 25-50mm, it was the lowest of the set. Now don’t get me wrong, it was still higher than you’d like to see (hence the sand-filled Graden work performed on the 7th January), but I can’t put surplus surface organic matter forward as the cause for this disease outbreak. In fact if I collated feedback from many customers this winter, the opposite is true. That is to say, the highest organic matter greens, the ones sitting soft and wet are largely clean and the lower O.M ones, the worst-affected across many sites.

Now this is the polar opposite to what we’d expect to see surely ?

It got me thinking that we are spending a lot of time and money focussing on disease management, both with fungicide and non-fungicide options, cultural work and the like, but are we really dealing with the cause or just running around fire-fighting the symptoms ?

I tell you what really got me wondering if we are on the right track and bear with me on this one, it was an article in New Scientist on Alzheimers, a form of Dementia, one of the only 2 publications incidentally that my brain can absorb from a reading perspective every week. (the other one being Motorcycle News :))

Currently with this condition there is no effective medical treatment, the big Pharma have poured millions into trying to solve it to no avail. The phenomenon they have concentrated on is the eradication of the Amyloid and Tau proteins that accumulate in the brains of sufferers of this disease. And so far they have failed, with the only treatment available being cognitive behaviour therapy and environmental management. (light, etc)

So I was dumbfounded to read in New Scientist that some researchers believe they have identified the causal agent and it is so left field it is hard to believe. It turns out that one of the key bacteria that can cause gum disease – Porphyromonas gingivalis –  may also be the primary agent behind Alzheimers. It may be (there’s always a caveat with research) that the proteins mentioned above are not the cause of the disease, rather they are a symptom and a reaction to the above bacterial organism.  Eradicate the bacteria and we may be able to prevent the disease. You can read about it here

OK, so what is that to do with Microdochium nivale ?

Well I think we are focusing too much on management of the symptoms and not the cause. Yes, we know the pathogenic fungi responsible for the disease but why are we seeing this disconnect between different cultural scenarios and disease activity ? If we can crack that one it may help us manage the disease longer-term, long after I have hung up my boots and committed this blog to history. I don’t have the answer but I think we are looking in the wrong place, in the wrong way, possibly.

Disease Pressure

Just before I leave this subject, it looks like overnight Wednesday we may have some temporary disease pressure as the wind drops back and humidity and temperature stay high. It shouldn’t last too long and may just be restricted to some localised activity around existing scars but be on your guard all the same.

Surface instability and root shearing

The weather dynamic I described earlier will unfortunately lead to a tricky day or two for our industry because we are undergoing a scenario of rapid surface thawing due to rainfall sitting over a frozen rootzone. When I took some O.M samples last Wednesday morning some greens were already frozen down 3cm and with the very hard frosts at the end of last week / weekend, I would expect this to have gone deeper. With mild rain falling on frozen ground and sitting on the surface, the upper layer will thaw quickly but if subjected to force (foot and buggy traffic) will shear very easily and become ‘plastic’ in nature. Once the thaw extends deeper into the rootzone, stability will increase. It’s a bit like laying washed turf and sod cut 50mm thick, the former is very unstable until it has rooted, the latter is stable straight away. Not only can this process cause lateral root shear but it is also very dangerous from a Health & Safety standpoint and remember anybody falling over will have a pretty hard landing.

Enjoy your wet and mild week and let us see what the weather will hold in store this time next week.

All the best.

Mark Hunt