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