2nd March

Hi All,

Took this snap as I was yomping around Rutland Water’s Hambleton peninsula as preparation for my first half marathon in a little over a months time. (eek)

I’m hoping it typifies the weather prognosis as laid out in Friday’s mini-blog.

That is to say that there is light at the end of the weather tunnel :).

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Now of course just as the weather is beginning to play ball we have to deal with Corona virus which is already having an impact on sporting fixtures both home and abroad. It is difficult to understand such is the hype of the media and the fixation of most of the general public to social media, how severe this outbreak actually is.

As ever I rely on New Scientist to bring some balance to my life and some facts rather than media hype. They state the following ;

80% of people who catch the virus only develop mild symptoms, 1 in a 100 people are dying from it and usually they are old or have an under-lying health condition. So in other words it isn’t as severe as flu. You wouldn’t believe that though when you read the news.

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It was pointed out to me (ta Rob) that on Sunday, the E.T for the day locally exceeded the rainfall and that’s a feature I’ll talk about later. As we go into March, the drying potential of the weather is far greater because daylight hours are longer. More day length = more E.T potential = more drying.

Here’s how day length changes through the first 4 months of the year using London as a location, with the lower figure the start of the month and the higher figure at month end.

Month                                        Day Length

January                                     07.54 – 09.04 hours

February                                   09.07 – 10.51 hours

March                                       10.54 – 12.53 hours

April                                          12.57 – 14.46 hours

So you can see we are already +3 hrs at the start of March vs. the start of January and obviously heading in the right direction.  We peak In London at 16.35 hrs on June 20, the mid-Summer Solstice, whereas Glasgow has another hour on top of that due to the longer day length in the north of the U.K.

I remember as a slip of a lad, crop inspecting spring barley growing near Port Logan, Stranraer, (Scotland) at 10 o’clock at night in the summer. A quite magical experience I can tell you topped off with a late dinner and a wee dram with the farmer afterwards 🙂

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My Hedgepigs certainly think Spring is here because the first one arrived on Friday night to have a bite (I put some Ark Hedgehog food and water out on a hunch) and since then I’ve had 3 different ones visiting for food. I think I have 3 living in the garden, one died over the winter due I think to hypothermia (cold, wet) and I hope to have at least one back from my local Wildlife sanctuary sometime this month.  This youngster was one of the lucky ones that appears to have survived the winter despite being from a late brood last year.

General Weather Situation

So how are we are looking in the run up to next weekend and a hopeful change in the weather patterns ?

So Monday looks to start with a cold and pretty dry picture over most of the U.K & Ireland. There are some showers crossing the west of Ireland as I type and also pushing into the north-west of Scotland. There’s also some showers across the north-west of England. These showers will consolidate for a time through the afternoon before fizzling out across the west of Ireland, England. The rain band across the north-west of Scotland will turn increasingly wintry with snow down to low levels. Away from western coasts we are set for a dry, sunny day…hang on I’ll just type that again to get the hand of it…a dry, sunny day, yep that’s the long and the short of it. We will have a north-west wind in situ so it won’t be warm, maybe 6-8°C, but you can’t have everything 🙂

Onto Tuesday and overnight we see some further consolidation of wintry showers across The Lakes and north-west England, with some of these showers pushing into the north Midlands. Again for most of the country a dry, cold, potentially frosty picture to start the day and for Ireland it looks to stay dry, bright and sunny all day on Tuesday. During the morning we will see a line of showers push into north-west Scotland and the showers over the north-west of England may drift south and east into The Midlands and Home Counties. There’s also the possibility of rain across North Devon from late morning on Tuesday. By dusk, the majority of showers should have fizzled out leaving clear skies and another cold night with ground frost likely. With that strong to moderate north west in situ, expect similar temperatures to Monday, 6-8°C.

Mid-week beckons with a southerly-orientated low pressure heading towards Ireland and the south of England. So from dawn we will see a band of rain push into the south west of Ireland and move north and eastwards reaching The South West by the morning rush hour. Away from this band of rain we should start sunny, bright and frosty.  This band of rain will cross Ireland through the course of the day and push up from the south west of England into Wales and western counties I am afraid. So central and eastern areas of the U.K should stay dry all day on Wednesday before that band of rain crosses over the country through the course of Wednesday evening, clearing Ireland as it does so. The wind will swing round to the south west courtesy of that low pressure system but it’ll still feel on the chilly side with similar temperatures to the beginning of the week.

Thursday sees that rain all but clearing the U.K and pushing off into The Netherlands but as it passes across the south of England it’ll pull in some north easterly winds for a time. These will pull cloud cover off The North Sea, so expect a duller, cool day on Thursday. It looks to be dry though for most areas save for the north west of Scotland which looks to see some wintry showers on and off through Thursday. Around dusk we will see a new band of rain pushing slowly into the west of Ireland. A pretty miserable day on Thursday with that wind direction and cloud cover, so expect 7-9°C as the likely temperature.

Closing out the week on Friday we see that band of rain cross Ireland overnight and so Friday will start with some rain and wintry showers across the west coast of the U.K. Some of those wintry showers will turn to snow over elevation. This band of wintry showers will push eastwards across the U.K through the course of Friday morning so not lingering too long over Wales and the west. So Ireland should be mainly dry through the morning on Friday after that band of wintry showers / rain has moved through. During the afternoon we will see some showery outbreaks across the south of England and west coast of Ireland. Some of the latter may consolidate into heavier rain events. Away from the cloud cover and rain across the south, the north of England and most of Scotland should have a mainly dry and bright, sunny day with the odd wintry shower pushing in. Remaining on the cool side with light, changeable winds and 7-9°C likely.

The outlook for the weekend is dismal….well nothing to do with the weather but they’ve cancelled the first MotoGP round due to the Corona virus and I’ve been waiting all bloody winter for the start of racing 🙁

OK so how does the weather look ?

Well that ridge of high pressure I promised looks to start influencing the weather from Saturday so firstly it’ll introduce a north west wind , but also some drier weather for a time. So Saturday looks dry on the whole with some showers on western coasts for Ireland and England but on the whole not a bad day. As we go through Saturday night though we will see a band of rain push into the west of Ireland, falling as sleet and snow over elevation. This will break down to 2 bands of parallel showers, once across Ireland and one across the west of England by Sunday morning. These will move eastwards through the morning and they will consolidate into a sunshine and showers picture through the course of Sunday afternoon. That high pressure will continue to push these showers eastwards clearing Ireland and eventually the U.K later on Sunday. With that high pressure pushing in we will pick up southerly winds and some milder temperatures pushing up into low double figures or higher. (rejoice)

Weather Outlook

So here’s how the GFS output looks for next Monday, the 9th of March.

As you can see high pressure is projected to push in from the south west of the U.K & Ireland. So next week looks like starting dry and reasonably mild I’d say. Now I’ll qualify that comment by saying not for everyone because Scotland and possibly the north of England, Ireland will still some rainfall and unsettled conditions being closer to a northerly low pressure system. So we have a north-south divide with rain affecting Scotland and the north of Ireland / north-west of England through Tuesday whereas further south should be dry and mild. On Wednesday a band of rain threatens to push across all of Ireland and the U.K but it’ll move through quickly with better weather behind it. So Wales, the south and central part of the U.K should have a relatively dry week, the same goes for south and central Ireland. Mild with it as well with a moderate westerly wind bringing in that warmth to these areas. Cooler and unsettled across the north with more rain arriving at the end of next week for us all before hopefully high pressure intervenes again. Fingers and everything else crossed.

Agronomic Notes

Next week I’ll do my usual monthly round up from using weather data from around the U.K & Ireland but I want to concentrate on a few different areas in this week’s blog.

Moving forward…

As I’ve said before, this winter has to be one of the most challenging ones for our industry from a weather perspective. We can chuck stats about till the cows come home but in essence it’s been wet, dull and cool with very little breaks in the pattern since the end of September last year. Soils have been saturated for extended periods and the low light level has knocked back most grass species, except of course Poa annua. Swards have shown some thinning but we are on the turn and that’s an important message to take come from this blog.

Now I know we aren’t out of the woods yet because some areas of the country have received disproportionate amounts of rainfall. The South West, South Wales, The North West and Yorkshire amongst them. Only as recently as Friday, South Wales got > 60mm of rain over a 24-hour period and was declared a major incident area. So please bear with me if you’re in one of those areas, I appreciate you won’t be getting machinery out of the shed onto the golf course or winter season pitch for awhile and you have my sympathy.

I took some stats from a Davis Vantage Pro2 weather station, near Sevenoaks in Kent to highlight the change we are beginning to see despite the fact that February was one of the wettest months on record in some areas.

I looked at January and February and compared rainfall, E.T and Solar Radiation (energy from the sun)

So you can see despite February being a really crummy month, we saw an uplift in E.T and Solar Radiation.

With high pressure forecast at the end of the first week of March we should see a steep upward line on both E.T and Solar Radiation. This will means increased photosynthesis from the more desirable grass species and of course accelerated dry down of the soil. I know we won’t be completely dry but if we have some dry down time, it’ll make all the difference believe me.

Organic matter removal – Ninja tines

I didn’t make it over to the GCSAA show this year but I spoke to someone who mentioned there was quite a buzz about these so called ‘Ninja tines’.

These are a very shallow tine that is designed purely to target organic matter in the surface and tine to 25-50mm depth only. They have a very small tine diameter (4mm) and with a 25mm x 50mm spacing, they remove 1% of the turf surface. The big plus is the cores are easier to clean up (with a blower) and after a cut and roll, you have a very good surface.

The sell is that you can do this work around golf without the disruption and of course if you were doing it monthly you could impact on 10% of the working area assuming 10 micro tines.

Now, I’m not qualified to say if these are any better / different than a microtine, Dyna core or similar but I do think that we should be only targeting the depth of the organic matter we need to remove. Whether this be by coring, scarifying, Gradening and the like, the objective is surface organic matter removal, the clue is in the name. The other benefit to me is that they’d be a great tool to use before overseeding, removing organic matter and providing a perfect environment for new seed. It goes without saying that we also need to aerate deeper to decompact and that’s where the vertidrain and the like come in.

Make up your own mind if they are worthy of consideration, the link is here

OK short and sweet today, a more comprehensive blog next Monday looking at rainfall, growth stats in February from around the U.K & Ireland.

All the best.

Mark Hunt