February 15th

Hi All,

It seems almost unbelievable that on Saturday I was out walking across the beautiful Leicestershire countryside across the snow and ice in -2.5°C air temperature , with an associated wind chill of -7°C that numbed the side of my face and next Saturday I may be in a T-Shirt ? I mean really ?

Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your perspective, and yes contrary to my forecast for this week, the Atlantic air stream won the battle with the cold air over the continent and has pushed further east than originally forecast.

This means we will stream in mild, wet and windy weather from the south west instead of colder air from the south east as forecast. It’s one of the few times lately that the forecasters have got it wrong prediction-wise and it shows just how delicately balanced our island climate can be sometimes.

The one saving grace is that we haven’t got hordes of golfers clambering to get out and play now the frost and snow is rapidly disappearing from the surface whilst the soil is still frozen beneath. Conditions such as these are perfect for root shearing as the thawed surface moves over the frozen sub-surface. They are also responsible for plenty of health & safety issues to boot as accidents frequently occur due to slipping and falls on the unstable surface.

So a rapid thaw in prospect and warm wind from Africa a possibility, let’s see what the week ahead holds for us.

General Weather Situation

OK, so starting on Monday morning and we already have that milder air pushing in from the south west as you can see from my screen shot of Netatmo’s Weathermap above taken at 9 a.m.  So during this morning, the overnight band of rain that ushered in late on Sunday is set to clear the south east of England. Ireland will see the same as rain this morning rapidly clears north and east. This rain will make landfall across the south west / west of Scotland by lunchtime and push into central regions through the afternoon. For England, Wales and Ireland, a dry day with some afternoon sunshine as well across eastern counties. During the 2nd half of the day, temperatures will climb nicely into the low double figures 10-12°C, with Scotland sitting 2-3°C lower. The wind will be strong to moderate after a quiet start and from the south west. Later on Monday night a new band of rain with strong winds pushes into the south west of Ireland and England.

Onto Tuesday and overnight that band of rain that pushed into Kerry has moved up the west coast into Connacht and the north west of Ireland. Meanwhile across The Irish Sea, the rain across the south west is projected to be straddled all the way up the west coast of England, through Wales, The North West and across most of Scotland. During the morning that band of rain across the north of Ireland and west coast of England, Wales and Scotland quickly clears north and east, whilst a separate band will move along the south of England, from The Midlands down. Showers will break out across the south west of Ireland and move along the coast into West Cork through the afternoon. Showery as well for The South West, Wales and western coasts for the second half of Tuesday with some of those showers moving inland. That morning band of rain will also prove stubborn to move from the south east and eastern counties. As we close out the day, rain across the south and south east of England moves off into The Channel, no doubt to then be interrogated, checked for 37 pieces of paper signed in different colour inks in triplicate before it proceeds into France where I hope it dumps it down . So a drier picture as we reach dusk for central and eastern counties, but still wet across The South West, West Wales and the west of Scotland. A moderate to fresh south westerly wind will continue and that means similar double-digit temperatures to Monday for Ireland, Wales and England with Scotland a couple of degrees lower.

Mid-week and overnight a heavy pulse of rain from another low pressure system pushes in from The Atlantic into the south west of Ireland. By dawn on Wednesday, this band of rain will be already across most of Ireland and into the south west and west of the U.K. During the course of the morning this will push across all of the U.K, clearing the north of England fastest. The rain over Scotland may fall as a mix of wintry showers over elevation. Further south this rain will slowly move eastwards across Wales and the southern half of the U.K clearing to warm sunshine in places as it does. Ireland looks to start wet from that initial rain band but this quickly moves north and east so only isolated showers across the north and later into West Cork during the day. Skies will clear to give some nice sunny spells and warm sunshine. By dusk we will see more rain arrive into The South West and this will push along the south coast of England. Scotland will also hold onto wintry showers across the north west. Windy again from the south west with 10°C forecast for England, Ireland and Wales and 6-8°C for Scotland.

Thursday sees the very unsettled picture continuing with heavier rain overnight for The South West, North Wales and The Lakes. By dawn, we will see this heavy pulse of rain still across The South West and Wales which could mean flooding here I think. Ireland will see some showers continuing across the west and north west but otherwise drier than of late. This band of rain appears to be slow-moving as it pushes eastwards into central areas during the course of Thursday morning and stretching all the way from the south coast of England up to Scotland, where it’ll take on a more wintry nature. By lunchtime on Thursday that rain will be covering the southern half of the U.K, with some heavy rain predicted for the north of England and across The Pennines. Ireland looks to have a largely dry day and Scotland will see those wintry showers become confined to the north west coast. A cooler day for all on Thursday as the wind shifts round to the north west and that’ll take the edge off the temperatures with 6-8°C predicted.

As we progress through Thursday night, we see that band of troublesome rain clear the east of the U.K but as it does another one arrives into the west and south west of Ireland. By early Friday morning this rain will be across most of Ireland and it’ll be across Wales and The South West / South Coast with some of the rain, heavy in places. Scotland and the north west of England may start dry but not for long I’m afraid. This band of rain on Friday looks to be heavy with high daily rainfall totals predicted for  the south east of Ireland, The South West, Wales, the north west of England, and west of Scotland. By Friday morning rush hour we will have this band of rain across the west, a clear band in-between and more rain to the east across central areas of the U.K. Heavy rain is set to continue for most of the day in the afore-mentioned places breaking down into showers later for the west of the U.K and across Ireland / Scotland. All in all a pretty wet day is predicted with flooding likely. The wind will be back in the south west on Friday and that means a resumption of milder temperatures with 10-12°C likely, though Scotland will stay cooler.

The outlook for the weekend looks wet across Ireland, the west, north west and west of Scotland with plenty of showers rattling in on that strong south westerly wind. Away from western coasts we will see more in the way of sunshine and so really mild with temperatures pushing up to 13-15°C across the southern half of England. Heavy rain will push into Connacht and then across The Irish Sea into Scotland overnight into Sunday, but most will have cleared by the morning. A drier picture initially on Sunday with mild temperatures again but later rain will push into the west of Wales, England and Scotland. Remaining mild with a south westerly air stream.

Weather Outlook

Hmmm, another interesting one for next week when you look at the predicted GFS output above for next Monday.

So if the projection holds (and as we know it may not), we will see high pressure build across The Bay of Biscay and this will push warm up from The Med and Africa into the south of England. Here’s the GFS outlook for next Wednesday (below) so you can see how it looks..

Now as we know, the force is strong (sorry) with The Atlantic jet stream and so we could easily see this change in my view but if it does occur it’ll mean warm air building from mid-week, next week.

So next week looks like starting unsettled for the north west of Ireland and Scotland but most of the rain associated with the Atlantic fronts will be pushed north and west of us and over the top. So a dry week for most areas next week with steadily building temperatures up into and through the mid-teens. Normally when I see orange on a heat map it means high teen temperatures, so I’d say if we stay on track it’ll be a beautifully warm and dry week with the best temperatures from mid-week onwards and knocking on 20 degrees. Can’t actually believe I’m typing this and that’ll it’ll stay on course but after a wet week this week, it would be just what the doctor ordered in terms of drying down areas, however it will have some other knock on effects which I’ll discuss below. Later on next week we may lose some of that temperature but remain largely dry with a cooler airflow and more cloud cover. It’s going to be so interesting to see if this actually comes to pass !

Agronomic Notes

As mentioned above, there are a number of consequences of such a rapid change from freezing temperatures, to mild wet and windy, to potentially stable, warm, high pressure, I’ll discuss these below ;

Growth Outlook

Daily Growth Potential actual and projected – February 2021 – Location – Great Dunmow, Essex

Above is a chart showing the actual daily G.P for a site in Essex and I’ve also added the projected daily G.P from tomorrow till the end of February. Now of course this is just one location but we can expect pretty similar figures across England, Wales and Ireland over the next 7-10 days if the high pressure system stays on track to appear next week. Scotland will be sitting some 20% under these sort of figures up until next week but if we get the mild, war high pressure, so will they next week.

So you can see we will pick up some growth not only because of rising air temperature but because we will be mild and wet this week, the soil temperature will increase as well due to the effect of warm rain.

Indeed this process is already underway in locations that have had rain overnight and this morning. The soil thermometer sensor at the location above showed 1.5°C at 25mm depth @ 7.30 a.m. this morning but is now showing 7.3°C, an increase of 5.8°C in a little over 5 hours !

This thermometer is placed in a high % sand rootzone which as we know is more reactive to both increases and decreases in soil temperature than a soil based rootzone. Interestingly I can see that whilst the soil temperature is increasing in the top 75mm of the rootzone, it is still sitting just above freezing below that such was the depth of frost penetration recently. The site received 2mm of overnight rain and its clear that this has aided the rapid increase in soil temperature but only to a certain depth.  By tomorrow morning I expect this trend to have continued deeper into the profile.

So we can see a rapid increase in soil temperature and air temperature from the forecast which will then lead to a significant growth hike over the next 7-10 days subject to the weather playing ball. Now it’s to be accepted that this weeks anticipated rainfall will make cutting / maintenance pretty tricky across the west and north of the U.K and Ireland, but further south and east may be in a better position. If next week’s high pressure comes to pass, then we should all have the possibility of getting some dry weather cuts in, which is nice (cue Fast Show smug face)

We must also remember that we may pick up some brighter, sunnier weather on some of the days and the increase in light levels will be also lead to an increase in growth.

The only downside is that most clubs have a large proportion of their staff on furlough and I guess there will be plenty of conversations at increasing staff levels when you look at the forecast. We obviously have no golf in England, Wales and Ireland currently and a limited version in Scotland, but you can see a growing possibility of this changing during the 1st / 2nd week March, if (and it is still very much an ‘if’) the numbers carry on their current positive trend and particularly with a growing proportion of the playing population having received their first or second vaccination jabs.  That gives most clubs 3-4 weeks to get the job done, get the course / facility back to a working state and welcome back players. There’s obviously lots to consider here, economically and that is the preserve of each club and their management, all I’m saying is that looking at this forecast, you’re probably going to need more than 2 staff per 18 holes to keep on top of growth, particularly on outfield.

Aeration work

A number of clubs will have already undertaken aeration work this winter during the lockdown period and hopefully this forecasted period of sustained growth will give some good recovery and allow some light dressings (subject to location, budget, resource, etc.) to speed recovery and filling in. Other clubs may be weighing up the idea of going this week or next with the prospect of good weather and of course as I mentioned above, a growing chance of opening their doors, albeit in a limited fashion. That’s a tricky decision in my books and one that is very dependent on the type of aeration undertaken.

If we look at solid tining, micro-tining (ninja tining, Dyna coring, etc., call it what you will), light scarifying, DryJect’ing  then I think I’d be pretty confident of being able to present a good surface in a reasonably short timeframe given the current forecast. If we look at deep scarifying, Gradening or hollow coring with large diameter tines (12mm or over) then I think this is more problematic, particularly the Graden option because more recovery time will be needed and this will include a good period of not just February but March as well. Looking back at previous years it has often been the case that during March and particularly April, we run into periods where growth is either moisture and / or temperature-limited. So any aeration that requires an extended period of recovery will be more of a lottery in my view once we get past the end of this month. The other fly in the ointment is the increased possibility of insect damage due to grazing in open tine holes in the spring.

At the end of the day, you know your club, your members, your greens, pitches, etc.. and how they all respond 🙂

One benefit this week despite the rainfall will be that the increasing temperatures and wind will increase dry down, certainly in the first half of the week and for eastern locations in particular. Last week we actually experienced some cold temperature desiccation with one day recording 1.5mm of E.T, such was the strength of the wind and the lack of humidity. All of my plants were wilting in protest.

Disease Pressure – Microdochium nivale

This week despite the very mild conditions should represent only moderate disease activity because of the wind strength, increased dry down and rainfall but I’m a little concerned about next week if that warm air high pressure comes to pass. In previous years we have seen high levels of disease pressure associated with this type of weather pattern. This is because high pressure tends to mean low wind speed, higher humidity (if the air is coming up from the south) and extended periods of dew formation. At this stage most of the activity we have seen up until this point has been around existing scars but if we do indeed hit the high teens next week and have some muggy nights with high humidity and low wind speed, we could easily see new infections. Now to balance this slight bit of negativity, we will be getting growth, we are on the cusp of spring and therefore closer to the point when we can make a decision to not visit the Chem Safe and to try and grow it out instead.

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All of the above to me is going to make the next 7-10 days a very interesting period to observe and react to in terms of applied turfgrass management 🙂

All the best

Mark Hunt