Hi All,

Well here’s to the first blog of 2022 and what a crazy Christmas period that was. Dodge the Omicron variant (a current theme in my house but thankfully so far not with me), exercise in shorts and a T-Shirt because it’s 15°C in the last few days of December and the new sound of Christmas, that of retching and sneezing as you partake in yet another Lateral Flow Test prior to going out or meeting up. Geez, Christmas isn’t all its cracked up to be is it.

The GFS weather pattern is probably the most variable I can ever remember seeing since my first blog back in 2010, especially at this time of year when we used to get stable high or low pressure periods. Now it flips on its head in barely a blink. My mate who lives in Breckenridge Colorado and witnessed the wild fires sweeping across Denver one day last week and then 6″ of snow and -16°C, the next, go figure…..

We have seen the same in a microcosm with The New Year greeted in by mid-teen temperatures (image left) as warm air wafted up from Africa on southerly winds and then a few days later, snow and freezing conditions pushing in from the north as cold air is being pulled in from northern Scandinavia (image right). I do wonder to myself if we have reached a tipping point climatically. Of course some WAG will point out that we have seen this all before, but really have we seen such variability in extremes, happening so fast, so often ?

Just to prove a point it has started snowing outside as I type this text…On that subject I was delighted to relieve Paddy Power of some White Christmas dosh as a front of rain moved northwards on Christmas Day and obligingly turned to snow in some places. Specifically Cork, Belfast and Leeds Bradford Airports. Oh joy of joys, it didn’t pay for Christmas, but it helped. I respectfully point out this is my only flutter of the year and for the record, the 4th payout in 11 years.

GFS output – 04-01-22

General Weather Situation

So as we can see, the start of the first week of January 2022 is greeted by a cold front crossing the U.K and Ireland, but as hinted earlier, variability is the theme for the start of 2022.

So Tuesday sees a band of rain, sleet and snow moving south across England and Wales with further wintry showers scattered across Scotland. Some of these will be on the heavy side. Ireland looks to have a mainly dry start to the shortened week with that cold air already present across the north of the country. Like Scotland, Ireland will see a raft of wintry showers across the north and these will push south through the day. As the wintry showers move through, the weather picture will brighten for the 2nd half of the day. Feeling much colder than the last week though with a nagging wind chill and temperatures in the 4-7°C range.

Onto Wednesday and a much nicer day in terms of sunshine, something that we haven’t seen for awhile I’d say in what was a generally dull end to 2021 in more ways than one. So Wednesday is forecast to be a cold, bright and sunny winters day just about everywhere across the U.K & Ireland, with a small risk of the odd rogue shower across the north east of Scotland. The wind will swing slightly from north to north west and pick up from Tuesdays light to moderate to moderate to strong. So a more pronounced wind chill mid-week and this will peg temperatures back to 3-5°C. Cold compared to last week with night frosts but pretty much what we should expect for this time of year.

As we move into Thursday it’s all change (again) as a cool, Atlantic low pressure system pushes in from the north west and introduces a band of rain to the west of Ireland at or around dawn. This rain will push eastwards across Ireland quickly where it will encounter cold, frosty air across the U.K as with clear skies on Wednesday night, temperatures dip down to below freezing. This might just lead to some of this moisture turning to snow (particularly across The North West and Scotland) as the two air masses meet but its milder air pushing in from the west with the rain, so it’ll dominate.  By lunchtime we will see this rain across The Irish Sea, clearing Ireland as it does so and into the western half of the U.K before pushing eastwards into central and eastern areas during the second half of the day. Milder air will push into Ireland and the western half of the U.K, but colder air will persist for awhile across the east. So expect 7-9°C sort of temperatures and a wind shift to stronger westerlies.

Closing out the week on Friday, the wind remains westerly but its source is in the north so it won’t be feeling particularly mild like although we should see more in the way of sunshine for the end of the week. It won’t be an entirely clear and sunny / cloudy picture on Friday because Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England will see showers continuing along western-facing coasts throughout the day. Currently though these aren’t forecast to move inland so for most a reasonably pleasant end to the week with 5-7°C likely in fresh westerly winds.

The outlook for the weekend is for milder conditions to dominate for a time as the wind swings round to the south west on Saturday morning. This will push in a thick band of rain overnight into the west of Ireland, Scotland and The North West initially, but by dawn it’ll be affecting all western areas of the U.K and spread liberally across Ireland. So Saturday looks unsettled with plenty of rain around across the U.K, whereas Ireland will clear from the west as that rain moves eastwards. In the second half of the day, that strong south westerly wind will swing round to the north west and that’ll drop the temperatures from 8-9°C to mid-single figures overnight. Sunday looks the slightly better day of the weekend for the U.K, though Ireland will see more rain for the start of the day. This will follow the same pattern as Saturday and push into western areas of the U.K through Sunday late morning and then into eastern areas later, clearing the west as it does so. Lighter winds on Sunday but cooler as the trailing edge of the low pressure will pull down a more northerly airstream so 5-7°C is to be expected.

GFS output – 10-01-22

Weather Outlook

So onto a caveat-laden weather outlook…..Well no surprises for the start of next week that it’s all change as high pressure nudges in from the south (Portugal actually) and builds through the week bringing a return to milder air and a drier interlude as well. A little unsettled in the early part of the week for the north and north west before the high asserts itself but thereafter I think we should have a really nice week certainly across the southern half of the U.K and most of Ireland. I add that caveat because with low pressure in the north it looks to me like the start of the week could be wet here with some of that moisture pushing south on Monday into Tuesday, however thereafter high pressure looks to build and we pick up milder westerly winds and drier weather. The north west of Scotland may keep more of an unsettled picture though with rain persisting during the week. How long will the high pressure system last ? Maybe till the following weekend when low pressure looks to reassert itself.

Agronomic Notes

So I won’t be doing a GDD / G.P summary of December 2021 until next week and probably Tuesday as I’m into Nottingham City for a bit of routine shoulder ‘pain management’ work on the Monday. That said, Sean has as efficiently as ever sent through his monthly data from The Oxfordshire and Wendy has kindly collated it so we can have a bit of a sneak preview so to speak…

So December came in very mild as one would expect but we have seen much milder. Cast your mind back to 2015 when we had a fixed pattern of unsettled weather, low pressure systems and mild Atlantic air lasting from October right through to January 2016. It was a really wet autumn and also consistently mild and December 2015 came in with 139.5 GDD no less. December 2021 came in at 49 GDD, which is the second highest total since I started doing this blog back in 2010 and a reflection of a very mild mid-part and end part of the month. If you look at it from a daily GDD perspective you can see what I mean in the graph below ; (Note all these charts use a 6°C base temperature for the GDD calculation)

By way of comparison, this is what December 2015 looked like !

Either of these would make not a bad growing month for the spring and just to finish by way of contrast, here’s April 2021….Note the change of scale and the fact that we had nearly double the GDD in December 2021 than we had in April 2021.

The amazing thing about December 2021 for me was the mildness of the night and the lack of temperature drop between night and day.

Charting out the air temperature data from The Oxfordshire you can see what I mean particularly at the end of the month.

Air temperature – December 2021 – Thame, Oxfordshire, U.K

Over the last 2 days of December, the air temperature didn’t drop below 11.7°C day or night and peaked at 14.8°C.

As is invariably the case during the autumn and winter in the U.K & Ireland, when it is mild, it is often wet as well and that seems to have been the case for many a location with a very wet end to the year. You can see some pretty hefty daily rainfall totals on this summary chart from Devon for December 2021 ;

Daily Rainfall – December 2021 – Okehampton, Devon, U.K

At this location, December’s rainfall total was 156.4mm or just over 6″ in old money. Cross over to the other side of the country and we saw 65 – 75 mm for The Midlands and east of England. Wet and mild air nearly always comes in from the west and south west so I guess that’s no surprise then.

It is early days yet but I haven’t heard of any reports of rampant Microdochium over this period despite the very high humidity and air temperature but that maybe because it’s the first day back. Certainly for me there were periods in that last week when the wind dropped, the dew arrived and it was still early teens air temperature so I’d be amazed if disease didn’t rear its ugly head, especially on old scars. Thankfully the 7-10 days running up to Christmas was dry and that allowed many of you to get down your dew control and pesticidal / non-pesticidal applications. I did note someone on Twitter cast doubt on whether these applications were necessary just as we approached Christmas and I remarked that by the time you know whether they were or weren’t – a) It would be too late and b) There’s no remedial course of action available. I think on balance when you look at the mildness of the weather pattern between Christmas and New Year, the high humidity and the lack of spray days due to heavy rain then the answer to that question as to whether these applications are necessary is a resounding ‘yes’….It’s very easy to be wise after the event…

GFS output – 13-01-22

Bit of a window in some parts next week maybe ?

Now if the 2nd part of next week does indeed end up being characterised by an Azores high pressure system (see above), then the resulting mild and dry conditions, combined with a good drying wind (hopefully) could present us with a bit of a window, especially in the areas that haven’t received as much rain at the end of December. A window for some nutrition applications possibly as I’m a big fan of applying granular nutrition this side of the The New Year and then let it tick away whenever we have some mild interludes thereafter to bring surfaces into the spring better than they otherwise would be. It also removes pressure in March to artificially force growth just to get recovery by whapping 40 – 50kg of cold-temperature available N down in the hope of generating some early year silage 🙂

A smarter play for sure is to apply 35% of that earlier and help the plant by providing gentler nutrition over a medium to longer-term basis. You may be dry enough to vent your surfaces and get some much needed oxygen down into the rootzone but of course putting holes in surfaces when the threat of Leatherjackets looms large on unseasonably high soil temperatures must remain a cause for concern. A tricky balancing act for sure that one. That said, narrow tine diameters this time of year should be well healed over before March / April when it has to be said our traditional spring more often than not fails to arrive.

I 100% appreciate it depends upon ground conditions and if you’re wet you can do more harm than good for sure by trying to aerate early but using the period from Jan to mid-March to me remains a smarter play than relying on March and April, the latter of which can often turn out to be really hard work to grow grass consistently.

High pressure at this time of year can often single disease and this one could easily do the same though currently the isobars are packed tightly enough to suggest we should have drying winds rather than still, muggy nights. That outlook can easily change though and especially at the moment with the weather having such a tendency to flip on the flick of a switch. We will know more this time next week but by then it may be a bit late 🙁

OK, that’s me done for this week, remember I won’t be doing a blog next Monday as I’ll be under the syringe so to speak 🙂

All the best.

Mark Hunt