January 18th

Hi All,

Bit of a late start this morning because of software / server issues but there you go so I’ll make it brief and crack on 🙂

A week of two halves coming up as we pick up a mild air peak (see GFS output below) for the first half of the week and then drop into a cold air trough for the latter part of the week / weekend. Wind will be with us for most of the week and unfortunately a predicted bucket load of rain as well, particularly for the north and north west. Stating the obvious I know but the ground is so saturated that even a relatively small amount of rain gives rise to flooding. Last week we had around 25mm over the course of the week and the rivers were on top of their banks. This winter I’ve seen more flooding around town than I’ve ever done and in new places where I’ve never seen water before. Lockdown or no lockdown, a lot of golf courses and facilities would be closed anyway down to the weather and will likely have remained closed through most of January.

So let’s put some detail on what will be a shortened blog if I’m to make the 1 p.m. cut-off !

General Weather Situation

Starting this forecast for the 2nd part of Monday, we see the first of the projected rain make landfall across the north west of Ireland, the south west of England and West Wales around mid-afternoon. This rain will quickly move north and east pushed on by a strong west / south westerly wind. By dusk we see more rain into the south west of Ireland and pushing across the country so a wet end to the day for Ireland. Overnight that rain will cover most of the U.K, however Scotland will miss the worst of it with the main concentration from The Borders south. Some of the overnight rain promises to be pretty heavy across Connacht, North Wales and the north west of England. Temperature-wise, mild across the west with double figures likely but cooler across the north and east with  7-11°C likely.

By Tuesday morning that rain will still be straddled across Ireland so that means some flooding is likely across the west and north west for sure. Across The Irish Sea, it will be a dry start for most of the U.K, except the area covered by a horizontal band of rain stretching from North Wales up to The Borders. This band will be slow-moving and so expect some severe flooding because of the state of the ground in the north west of the country / North Wales already being at saturation point. Through the course of the day the band of rain will sink south into all areas, except the south east of England whilst Ireland will still be sitting under the same widening band of rain. As the rain front widens northwards it will butt up against the cooler air in the north and fall as wintry showers across the north of Ireland and the south of Scotland, whilst the far north stays relatively dry. Milder everywhere across the south and central areas with daytime temperatures pushing into double figures and accompanied by a strong to gale force, south westerly wind.

Overnight into Wednesday and some areas will be starting their 3rd consecutive day of heavy rain, particularly North Wales, so beware flooding in this area. Ireland will see rain and wintry showers pushing up the south eastern side of the country but central and western areas will at least pick up a dry (ish) start. Across The Irish Sea, the rain will be concentrated across the bottom half of the U.K first thing on Wednesday morning and through the course of the day, the low pressure will rotate on its axis whilst not moving very far either way. We have been here before with slow-moving weather systems and we know all too well the consequences in terms of very high daily rainfall totals and that’s what we are likely to see for North and South Wales, the north of England and the south east / east of Ireland. Wexford in particular looks in the firing line for heavy rain / wintry showers. By dusk this band of rain tilts away from the south and east of England but persists across western and northern areas and moves slowly north towards southern Scotland where it’ll increasingly fall as wintry showers. A real north-south divide for both rainfall and temperatures with the southern half of the U.K getting the bulk of the rainfall and milder, double-figure temperatures compared to Scotland which will sit drier but colder with temperatures barely reaching mid-single figures.

Onto Thursday and finally we see that low pressure push north and east out into The North Sea but it will still mean heavy rain and wintry showers for the north east of England and Scotland on Thursday morning. For Ireland, a drier, brighter weather picture for Thursday and the same for England and Wales but there will still be some rain across Wales and the north of England on Thursday morning I’m afraid. A drier picture for everyone as we move through the day with the wind turning round to north westerly and temperatures dropping as a result. So a cooler, drier picture for most on Thursday with plenty of winter sunshine and temperatures sitting between 4-8°C . Winds will be strong westerlies at the start of the day but swing round to the north west through the day and lessen in intensity as they do so.

Closing out the week on Friday we see the winds now pushing strongly from the north west / north and that’ll cool things down further with a widespread frost overnight due to the clearing skies. Some wintry showers around across western and north west coasts of both Ireland and the U.K, but these will lessen in intensity as the day goes on. Plenty of sunshine around but well parky with an evident wind chill courtesy of those north winds. 2-5°C the best I can do for Friday but at least it’ll be mainly dry 🙂

The outlook for the weekend looks dry initially on Saturday after a hard frost overnight but developing wintry showers will quickly spring up across Wales through Saturday morning and push eastwards through the course of the afternoon. Ireland will also see some wintry showers across the west and south westerly-facing coasts with only a few pushing inland. These wintry showers across Wales will move eastwards through the course of Saturday afternoon giving snow in places. Scotland and Ireland look to stay reasonably dry, but cold with some wintry showers pushing into western Scotland later on Saturday. Winds will be lighter on Saturday and more westerly but it won’t help temperatures at all with 2-5°C again likely. Sunday looks like starting off frosty with wintry showers across western coasts of Ireland and the U.K, but plenty inland as well. These will lessen through the course of the morning across most areas but North Wales, the north west of England, western Scotland and the north west of Ireland will still see plenty I’m afraid. So a sunshine and wintry showers type of day with a strengthening north westerly wind if anything making it feel even colder than Saturday with a pronounced wind chill keeping temperatures around 3°C.

Weather Outlook

Peak to trough, peak to trough seems to be the name of the game at this stage of the year. On Friday I blogged about the threat of a ‘Beast from the East’-type scenario for next week but over the weekend the GFS output changed and has pushed this colder air more eastwards so the risk has lessened for now. That said we are I think going to be stuck in a pattern of a high pressure peak followed by a cold, low pressure trough for the foreseeable which means a continuation of a colder than usual winter and more risk of snow / wintry showers for the southern half of the U.K. Not the greatest news for Covid-19 which clearly has a liking for colder temperatures. That said they aren’t keeping people indoors because the number of people I see out walking, cycling and running has to be seen to be believed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to see but in some cases it is clearly defeating the rationale of social distancing. Anyway back to next week’s weather.

So next week looks to start with a continuation of that colder air pattern on Monday but milder, wetter  air is due to push in on southerly winds for Tuesday with rain across the U.K & Ireland. This milder air will be restricted to the southern half of the U.K because the north and Scotland will pick up a colder low pressure system and a continuation of that rain for Wednesday vs. a drier picture further south. As we progress through Wednesday the wind swings more north westerly and pushes cooler air further south with some wintry showers. By Thursday we see a new, intense low pressure track in from The Atlantic bringing strong winds and heavy rain across Ireland and the southern half of the U.K. This low pressure is currently projected to track south so that’ll mean a continuation of wind and rain through Friday and into the weekend after next. More rain and strong winds is projected thereafter courtesy of a new Atlantic low pressure system. Very changeable indeed as a weather dynamic.

Agronomic Notes

Getting an increasing number of reports of turf damage due to Leatherjackets and Bibionids which I guess after the wet and mild autumn is to be expected. Big shout out to Glenn Kirby from Syngenta for carrying out a pole on the severity of Leatherjacket damage and what people are seeing out there. I don’t know how he finds to time to do this over the weekend when he’s running half marathon distances as well in the cold, wet and dark. Glenn, I tip my hat off to you on both accounts 🙂

On a serious note though it shows how much we are evolving as an industry in that plenty of people are happy to commit a small amount of time to fill in this type of poll on social media. (Lockdown probably helps as well). It matters because it builds a picture very quickly and most importantly I think means as a club you can quickly see that your situation is not just happening on your golf course, other facilities are also in the same boat. We are I think quite insular as an industry. So often I encounter a situation where a golf course superintendent thinks it’s only a problem on his / her golf course / sports facility but the reality is usually very different. A poll like the one Glenn conducted allows superintendents and club management alike to see the bigger picture and in some cases helps manage criticism that ‘it’s only an issue on our course’.

The link to the poll is available here

Growth – There isn’t a whole lot going on above ground !

I know last week I updated the GDD spreadsheet but it was only earlier today when I was plugging in some January stats y.t.d that I realised how little growth we have had this month. (and at the end of last as well)

As you can see from the chart above, since December 1st, 2021, there have only been 2 good growth days on this site with a pronounced drop off since December 24th to the current day. If you want to talk GDD, the total figure for December was 30.6GDD (which is sort of normal), but for January the figure is 0 GDD so far. Now we should remember that just because we aren’t getting clip in the box, this doesn’t mean we aren’t getting any growth. You could argue that the most important growth (and here I am referring to root growth) takes place above 0°C and before higher air temperatures cause the grass plant to divert resources to shoot growth. That’s why it is important to aerate in the winter but of course we have the other side of the coin, that of saturated ground conditions and here deep aeration is usually counter-productive until we see some drying out down the profile. Throw into that mix the risk of insect damage if holes are left open and it makes the decision on how and when you aerate a tricky one. Now every site is different so this is one case when you have to weigh up the pro’s and cons of getting the work done now rather than later. The current lockdown also means there’s a strong strategic side to this argument as well in getting the work done whilst the facility is closed but it isn’t always possible. Mother Nature and the furlough scheme don’t help that decision-making process. All in all a tricky call. I’ve always been in favour of early aeration, getting the work done before the spring but it’s very easy (and particularly this year) to type that and less straight-forward to weigh up whether it’s even possible with a diminished crew and less than favourable weather. Certainly there isn’t going to be much recovery in January this year I’d say with a total GDD likely to be < 10.0 – 15.0  for the month a total G.P < 1.5 – 2.0. By way of consolation, at least pesticidal and non-pesticidal sprays are hanging on nicely with the reduced clip rate.

Ok that’s it for this week, short and sweet. Hopefully next week the server plays ball and I can look back at December 2020 and the year in general.

All the best, stay safe and healthy.

Mark Hunt