Category Archives: Mark Hunt’s Weatherblog

February 18th

Hi All,

As every week passes in February we can imagine we are edging ever closer to spring and some warmer temperatures. I use the term ‘imagine’ slightly tongue-in-cheek because this weekend saw temperatures up to 14.5°C here and the coming weekend will likely nudge them even higher, so we don’t have to imagine. The record for the warmest February day currently stands at 19.7°C recorded back in 1998, but I can remember back to my formative years, a certain 1976 which started in exactly the same way as 2019 and went on to be our hottest, driest summer for many a year.

Now before I doom 2019 to be our wettest year ever (thank you John) I did have a look at the weather stats for 1998 out of interest. Back then we did indeed start extremely warm and dry, but we actually endured a very wet April and June that year so nothing is certain. That said I feel our climate, temperature and rainfall-wise, is in a different place to what it was just 20 years ago and for sure the demand for water is definitely on the up judging by the number of houses being built everywhere. Perhaps this is part of our infrastructure that the government will ignore at their peril (because they’ve plainly given up with roads and other infrastructure), that of water supply to the population.

The last time we did endure a very dry year with insufficient water levels going into it, the golf industry was treated very much like the runt of the litter when it came to amenity surfaces and their management. Let’s hope the weather swings round and gives us a nice bit of balance between temperature and rainfall and we don’t repeat that experience.

General Weather Situation

Onto Monday’s weather and running late today already 🙁 Some of us are indeed experiencing sunshine and showers weather as we start the week with a raft of showers sitting across Ireland, west and mid-Wales and pushing up in that familiar band from the south coast up into Oxfordshire and west London. That pretty much sets the pattern for today really because we have an Atlantic low trying to feed in those showers but their bias will be mainly north and west. The heaviest rain will be for Ireland and the west of Scotland but with that low close by, expect showers across the west and north of England, Wales as well. Here’s how they’re stacked up currently..The showers across Wales and the south of the U.K are moving north and east.

So not a bad February’s day, dry for most away from those shower bands and mild with it, but maybe a little cooler than the weekend with temperatures between 8-11°C and accompanied by a brisk south-westerly, veering westerly wind.

Those showers should fizzle out during the course of Monday evening and then we will see a largely dull and not too cold night with temperatures down in the mid-low single figures. Starting Tuesday we will still have some thicker cloud base over northern England and western Scotland, thick enough for some mizzly drizzle. During the morning we will see another band of rain from that nearby low pressure push into the west of Ireland and this will push east across country reaching Leinster after lunch and then crossing the Irish Sea into Scotland by dusk. Away from this rain front, Tuesday should offer a mainly dry, but dull day and that cloud cover will peg temperatures down to just under double figures, so feeling cooler and nipper than of late. Overnight that rain will push into the western half of the U.K, at this stage from mid-Wales northwards but there may be a chance it pushes some showers into The Midlands overnight (wishful thinking maybe). The wind will continue to be westerly / south-westerly.

Stop Press !

Just had a quick look at where the rain was falling at 11.30 a.m. You can see how some people can easily report rain and others not 🙂 Talk about a narrow shower band compressed between an Atlantic low and a continental high !

So Wednesday starts very unsettled with plenty of showers spread across Ireland, western and central Scotland, northern England and north Wales. During the morning there’s a chance some of these will push further inland into the Midlands and north-east England, clearing Ireland as they do so. By Wednesday afternoon the rain will be sitting across Wales, north-west England and western Scotland and furthest east will see plenty of thick cloud so another dull day with precious little chance of seeing the sun. Feeling milder than Tuesday though with temperatures up in the low double figures despite the thick cloud cover and still with a south-westerly wind. Wednesday night may be quite mild and with a dropping wind we could see some pretty heavy dews.

Onto Thursday and this is the day when we start to lose the influence of that Atlantic low pressure system as the wind swings round from west to southerly through the course of the day. That change in wind direction will affect both cloud cover and temperature. Putting some detail on it, Thursday looks to start dull with thick cloud (again) and some of that cloud over West Wales and The Lakes may be heavy enough for some light rain. During the morning we see another rain front approach Ireland but instead of pushing into the west as per normal, it will take a hike northwards. This is due to the influence of an emerging high pressure system which will push any rain up and over the U.K and Ireland. As a consequence, we will start to see breaks in the cloud cover going through Thursday, starting with southern England but rapidly spreading northwards to give a sunny afternoon and evening just about everywhere. In the sunshine, temperatures will pick up to the mid-teens, Scotland and Ireland will perhaps be the last areas to benefit from this change with slightly lower temperatures until the end of the week.

Closing out the week, Friday will see a cracking day, pretty much everywhere with long spells of sunshine and rapidly rising temperatures after a single figure start. A moderate southerly wind will be ushering up that warm air from ‘The Med’ and that’ll set the pattern for the end of the week / weekend. At this stage Meteoblue are predicting 16°C for Friday and the likelihood is that it will climb higher over the weekend.

So the outlook for the weekend looks pretty sweet really with long spells of winter (?) sunshine, a warm southerly wind and maybe a bit more in the way of cloud cover creeping over on Sunday across Ireland and the west of the U.K. I could do with this cloud cover moving a bit further west for my fly fishing please 🙂

Weather Outlook

Image courtesy of Meteocentre.com

Above is the GFS image for the start of next week and you can clearly see the peak pattern in the jet stream which is providing us such early season warmth. Low pressure sits west, north and east of us with the peak pushing any rain up to Iceland and then down into Scandinavia. So looking at the longer-term projections this peak pattern looks to be in place for the start of next week but gradually through the first part of next week, the dominant high pressure will get slowly pushed aside and low pressure will introduce more unsettled weather from mid-week. First off into Ireland and then later in the week across the west and north of the U.K.  So no long-term run of dry weather (though it’ll be two weeks with no rain by then over here in The Midlands) with a more unsettled start likely for the beginning of March with deep low pressure systems pushing in from the west.

Agronomic Notes

Early season growth…

The 26GDD projected for the next 7 days will represent a nice bit of recovery for a lot of different areas.

First off in disease scars carried over from the winter and also for winter tees and winter season pitch outfields alike, both recipients of heavy wear over the winter. With soil temperatures hitting double figures already and probably inching up on that later this week, late autumn and dormant seeding work will begin to bear fruit and put some tillering into those drill lines from last autumn.

All good news in my book. Some areas of the U.K are dry and this week’s run of dry weather culminating with higher than normal temperatures at the weekend will cause some surface layer dry-down but with E.T levels sitting around 1.5mm per day, this shouldn’t be too much of a concern at this stage of the season. If I could see another week of the same after this weekend, I would be more worried but if the gradual breakdown of the weather pattern pans out as projected then we should be fine with rain falling on warm soil.It is a warning maybe to get your irrigation primed up early though if it’s an option just to hand water any hot spots that develop ?

Looking at the month overall, with 35GDD recorded here in The Midlands up until yesterday and another 26-odd for the week ahead, it looks like February 2019 will comfortably come in as the warmest February since we started recording these stats in 2010 and I bet the mildest on record from a Met Office standpoint. (Cue Daily Express headlines)

Using the window…

So if I had the choice between a traditional aeration date already booked in March / April and going this week, would I do so ? Yes, I think I would because the earlier you aerate, the earlier you’ll get recovery and most importantly in these times of revenue streams and early season cash flow, work carried out in February must have a lower impact on the above than the same in March and April.

The above is a picture of a green that was ‘Gradened’ on the 7th January, so 5 weeks ago. You can see it’s well on the way to repairing over and as we know with this machine, a good amount of organic matter in the top 25mm will have been removed. A nice topdressing this week onto a dry leaf and jobs a good ‘un. Some greens on this course had also been hollow cored twice since the same date and they were already 80% recovered.

I know I harp on about this a lot but one of our key objectives must be to adapt to a changing climate from an industry perspective. My feeling is that having seen early aeration carried out over the last 10 years or so, across a whole myriad of different starts to the year from a weather perspective, I haven’t seen one negative, only positives.

You could also add to this that later aeration in the traditional spring slot probably coincides with more potential issues related to Leatherjackets, Chafers and Bibionids.

Insect activity

Speaking of which out walking at the weekend I noted an increase in the number of Corvids (Crow species) feeding in the fields, no doubt on grubs. I’ve also noted an increase on Twitter over the last week in the number of courses reporting Badger grazing on Chafers / Leatherjackets / Bibionids so there’s a negative flipside to a milder start to the year.

On the course I visited we noted one tee showing a loss of density / cover and the culprit in this case was Bibionid larvae. These guys tend to live right in the surface of the thatch and can be found in clusters.  You can just see the caramel-coloured larvae at the point of my knife. Now you could argue that by aerating or presenting aeration holes early in the year, the chances of this becoming an issue are higher. I’d argue the opposite because the traditional months of March and April offer a higher likelihood for this to be an issue. Leaving this topic on a positive, the section taken above showed some really good rooting so hopefully that will help sustain a grass population into the spring despite the negative attention of Bibionids. The lack of an insecticide that we can use all-year-round remains a weakness in our industry and one we don’t actually share with amenity turf in continental Europe.

I’m off to Germany later this week to do a workshop at the German Greenkeepers Conference and whilst I note that they have very little available from an effective control of Microdochium perspective, they do have access to a really good insecticide. Mutual recognition anyone …….yeah right ?

For your information here’s a list of what is currently available across The North Sea from a pesticide basis. Credit to them as an industry for their pro-activity and efforts in achieving this against a backdrop in the rise of the German Green Party, I know the process isn’t an easy one.

Like us, their industry sector is adapting and hopefully we can all learn together from our experiences…

Disease activity this week…..

It’s a tricky dynamic this week in terms of disease development but on balance I don’t think the coming week will represent sustained high disease pressure. First off we have the same weather pattern as last week in that high day-time temperatures won’t necessarily correspond to high night-time temperatures with Tuesday night into Wednesday and Wednesday night into Thursday probably representing the mildest nights, heaviest dew and highest disease potential. We will also have a reasonable strength wind for most of the week which will keep the leaf dry for longer.

I would probably pick Wednesday night into Thursday as the highest disease pressure period after that it will drop away. I’d also hope that with more grass growth this week we will see any new infection being grown out as quick as it forms as long as you are on top of your nutrition. So yes, some activity around existing scars and possible new infection. Let me know if you wouldn’t mind what you see.

Fine Turf Grass Species….?

One of the cornerstones of an effective IPM program going forward is definitely trying to work towards a mix of grass species on greens and thereby increasing the resilience of the sward to Microdochium and other diseases. Now I’ve always been pro bentgrass from this perspective and in particular creeping bentgrass because I believe it has better breeding from a disease resistance perspective in terms of both Microdochium and Anthracnose.

So I was particularly interested in a debate on Twitter about overseeding ryegrass into a fine turf environment and its ability to withstand very close mowing as well as offer better disease resistance. I’ve often heard this spoken about and have seen a number of courses who have done this for many a year now, especially those that take heavy play and / or have small greens with limited pin positions. My feeling is that it does perform well and contributes less to thatch production than Poa annua whilst offering lower disease susceptibility to Microdochium and Anthracnose. Now I’m guessing this is too big a leap for our industry at the moment and we shouldn’t just work in a reactive fashion but don’t discount it as one for the heretics.

Reading New Scientist it is quite amazing what scientists are achieving now with genetic engineering and in particular gene editing using CRISP. Recently there was an article where scientists had boosted the efficiency of photosynthesis in a plant species by 50% in terms of conversion of sunlight into biomass production. (You can read about it here)

I note also how research is being focussed on improving disease resistance in other plant species like Bananas (here). Who knows if one day the grass species we overseed with won’t be genetically modified so it is already resistant to Microdochium / Anthracnose and therefore doesn’t need pesticide applications ?

Of course that wouldn’t be allowed within the E.U currently but I won’t go down that road today 🙂

I’ll leave you with that thought, enjoy your week.

Mark Hunt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 11th

Hi All,

With a mild, positively spring-like week coming up with double figure temperatures, one could almost think that we are on the upwards path out of winter 🙂

This week sees the re-emergence of the Atlantic high pressure that popped up during December and January and true to form it’ll funnel up warm air from southern Europe. The tricky part is whether it will also push on more disease pressure as it did in the months before. Still looking on the bright side (as one has to me thinks) this weather pattern will see us into the third week of February and every week that passes without a return to the tabloid’s favourite, ‘Beast from the East’, is another week when the chances of it re-appearing diminish 🙂

General Weather Situation

So Monday doesn’t start off half bad really with a dry picture over most of the U.K and Ireland. There’s a few showers showing on the radar across the north-east of Scotland, The far south-west of England and Ireland, and a few pushing in off the Mersey estuary. Apart from that we are set fair for a dry but cool day due to a strong northerly / north-westerly wind which will nip down the temperatures a tad, but at least it’ll keep the humidity low. Plenty of sunshine around across The Midlands and south of England early doors. Temperature-wise expect 7°C across Scotland and a double figure 10°C across Ireland, Wales and England. Once the sun is down, temperatures will drop off markedly, a feature of this week so expect low single digits and the chance of a ground frost in places.

Tuesday sees some rain push into the south-west of Ireland and move north and east into the south-west and west of Scotland through the course of the morning bringing wind and rain here. During the afternoon this will spread south into north-west and northern England reaching north Wales by the evening. Further south and east of this rain you can expect another nice, dry day and with the wind swinging round to the south-west, it’ll feel a little milder as well. So a dry, dull day for most away from the rain showers with possibly only East Anglia seeing the sun for any length of time. A strong to moderate south-westerly wind will persist through the day. Mild though for mid-February with 9-10°C for Scotland, but pushing up to 11-12°C for Ireland, Wales and England. I’ll take that for mid-Feb any day of the week.

Onto mid-week and my how time flies when you’re writing a blog against a publishing deadline of 1 p.m 🙂 Wednesday sees that high pressure begin to exert itself pushing any rain further north across Scotland during the morning, but even this is set to fizzle out through the afternoon. A milder night on Tuesday means a milder start to the day and although we have cloud to kick off, this will thin through the morning to bring long spells of hazy sunshine to England and Wales, with cloud over remaining over Ireland and Scotland. A strong to moderate south-westerly wind will remain in situ and you’ll feel the temperature drop away as soon as the sun sets. Similar temperatures to Tuesday for all areas.

Thursday sees that high pressure in a dominant position so a dull start but soon the sun will push through and it’ll be a lovely day with plenty of sunshine once the cloud breaks. That sunshine will extend across northern England into Scotland so a dry and warm day for most areas with a warm southerly wind pushing temperatures again up into double figures for Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland. More in the way of cloud cover for Ireland and that southerly wind will increase to strong to gale force in places here. A cracking day for mid-February really and again we will see temperatures drop away as the sun sets and with clear skies they’ll tumble to low single digits, cold enough for a grass frost in places.

Rounding out what can only be termed a half-decent week, Friday sees England and Wales continue the dry and sunny theme, but across The Irish Sea we see a rain front push into the south and west of Ireland and move eastwards from early doors, clearing from the west as it does so. This rain front will push into the west of Scotland by mid-morning and move eastwards into Central Scotland by late morning. Further south over England and Wales, we will see cloud cover build from the west ahead of that rain front which will sink south into north-west England and Wales on Friday evening. Cooler across Ireland and Scotland with that thicker cloud and rain, with temperatures around 9-10°C, but further south it’ll feel very nice thank you with 12°C likely across Wales and England. Remaining dry here as well but clouding over from the west later.

So after a nice week for most, we will see this settled, dry and mild theme extend into the weekend ?

Yes and no…

The outlook at the moment is for the high pressure to  move slowly eastwards in response to a building Atlantic low pressure which will introduce more unsettled and windy weather into Ireland and Scotland through Saturday on the back of a freshening south-westerly wind. England and Wales I think will stay largely dry on Saturday despite more cloud cover so the mild, dry theme will maintain its momentum through Saturday here. Come Sunday I think another unsettled day for Ireland and Scotland and that rain could easily push in to Wales and the west through the course of the day though models don’t agree on this at present. I think we will see heavy rain for Ireland on Sunday and this rain front will push into Wales, Scotland and the west coast through the 2nd half of Sunday, that’s my take.

Weather Outlook

Looking back at last week’s prognosis for this week I’m pretty happy with the consistency of Meteocentre’s GFS output so here we go for next week’s outlook..

The rain front that pushed across Ireland, Scotland and Wales on Sunday looks to continue eastwards overnight into Monday. So I think a wet and unsettled start to the week beckons for the U.K and Ireland as low pressure is in charge. So a wet Monday extending into Tuesday with windy and unsettled conditions for many. As one low pressure moves away, another is projected to push in and bring more heavy rain for all areas mid-week, next week. The prognosis is for the unsettled conditions to remain throughout next week with a mild (ish) south-westerly air flow and plenty of rain. After that there is a great deal of uncertainty so we will see.

Does that mean that winter is over and done with ?

Well it would be one of the earliest starts to spring if that were the case but I’m still cautious on this one. For the moment it’s a case of ‘Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero’ which roughly translates to  ‘seize the day and put very little trust in tomorrow !’

Agronomic Notes

Microdochium Pressure – Not again ?

So I guess the first thing that came into my mind at the weekend (apart from how the fek do I fit an upgraded horn to my BMW R9T in the titchy little gap BMW have left me ?) when I saw the developing high pressure and mild temperatures this week was, oh no, here we go again from a Microdochium perspective.

On examination of the temperature and humidity data projected for this week I don’t think it’ll be as bad as the last time an Atlantic high pressure paid us a visit, i.e December 26th – Jan 1st.

You know how I love my graphs, well I charted out both periods of weather, the Christmas to New Year period and the projected data for this week to see how they looked and to help me get my head around both scenarios.

Here’s the first period…

What we had between Christmas and New Year was very consistent temperature with minimal drop off between night and day, sometimes less than 2°C. The humidity as well pretty much stayed over 87% at this location and peaked consistently close to 95% during the night. So we had an extended period of plant leaf wetness and temperatures high enough to facilitate strong Microdochium nivale growth both on existing scars and on new infection sites. Although the temperatures weren’t super mild, they were mild enough to promote fungal growth of this pathogen and the extended periods of plant leaf wetness did the rest.

So let us look at the prognosis for the coming week using hourly data. I make the point about hourly data because we know we only need a small period of time for Microdochium nivale to grow and so averaging out temperature and humidity data can often ‘hide’ these periods. It’s a bit like looking at a monthly rainfall total and saying we only had 50mm, it was a dry month, but if that 50mm fell in just two days, you might not agree.

Now looking at the graph above for the same parameters I hope you can see that the pattern is quite different ?

I’ve standardised the scales so the data is comparable and you can see that the drop off between day and night temperature is more marked for this coming week compared to the period above. So where the temperature differential between day and night was only 2°C for the period between Christmas and New Year, it’s more like 9 – 10°C this week. The only day where you see less of a drop off is overnight Tuesday into Wednesday so this period may be more conducive to Microdochium.

You can also see the lowest temperature point during the night is much lower as well with temperatures around 2°C, so that will mean a slower growth rate for the Microdochium fungus.

The other very important feature of this coming week is the wind and the fact that during the day it’ll be a drying wind and not only will that lower the humidity, it will obviously dry the plant leaf off quickly once the sun is up. So this means we won’t have the extended period of plant leaf wetness that we had over Christmas / New Year, another key difference.

Again the drop off between humidity at night and during the day should be much higher this week. Between Christmas and New Year the humidity hardly changed from night to day varying by only 2-3%, whereas the prognosis for this week is a 15-20% drop in humidity during the day, another important difference.

So for this location I would expect to see some activity around existing scars mid-week but no new infection. Now the above is the case scenario for one location, it may be different elsewhere but I think the comparison is pretty similar in other locations.

A nice weather window….

Central U.K Location

West of Ireland Location

Central Scotland Location

South Wales Location

So there you have 4 different locations from 4 different countries and Meteoturf highlights a nice steady growth window this week extending I think into next week as well though the weather will be different.  The South Wales location above shows the dynamic really clearly with significant drops between day and night temperature through this week as high pressure is in charge and then a change to less variability between day and night as milder, south-westerly air pushes in to give unsettled conditions at the weekend.

So with dry conditions this week (once we dry out from Sunday’s rainfall that is) it’s a good time to get out and get any areas that you feel would benefit from an early push fertilised prior to more unsettled conditions next week.

With wet weather leading up to this week, moss and the like is fully-wetted up so iron treatments approved for mosskilling will work well, especially as we have more unsettled weather following on from this.

A lot of sites have carried out drought-damaged areas from last summer so here’s an opportunity to overseed and fertilise to gain some recovery whilst both moisture and temperature are available.

Too early ?

Well looking at the calendar you might be forgiven for thinking so but I just think we take the opportunity, we are only two and a half weeks away from March, so getting seed in the ground prior to the arrival of warmer air can only be a good thing. Yes, there’s always a chance that the weather will take a turn for the worse and winter will come back for one last hurrah, but the longer we progress through February without this occurring, the less likely that any return to winter will be prolonged. Now of course I have said that we will trip into a SSW and BFTE 🙂

If site conditions allow it, aeration will also be beneficial because with low rates of top growth, the plant can put its efforts into root growth and that’s the insurance policy for the spring and summer. The better roots we have, the more stable a grass plant is, the more resilient to summer stress. It all starts here.

Tempus fugit ! my friends, tempus fugit ! (Time flies)

Sorry about the use of latin (and bad punctuation) but I happen to like it on occasion, though neither were taught at Welland Park Comprehensive and yes I know it shows 🙂

All the best

Mark Hunt

 

 

February 4th

 

Hi All,

After some parts of the country received heavy snow last week, we start this week with some heavy rain to promote a rapid thaw and no doubt flooding as well for many areas. Currently (7 a.m.) as the radar picture shows, the north-east of Scotland and south-east of England is in the firing line. Aside from the likelihood of flooding, even the areas that didn’t get the snow cover (like here) will have issues with rain falling onto frozen ground. Out walking early yesterday with a starting temperature of around -6°C, the ground was rock hard (that was the intention, to be able to walk across cultivated ground without taking half of the field away on your boots:)), but the air temperature rose rapidly as the wind direction swung round to SW and the top layer soon thawed making it tricky walking. 3 1/2 hours layer when we’d finished, it was +7°C, a 13°C swing in 4 hours !. The same will be true today, rapid surface thawing over a frozen sub-layer, for me is the worst conditions on a golf course / sports pitch.

After a largely inaccurate weather outlook forecast for this week courtesy of my inability to interpret new output (Yes Mr Draper I do actually use data as opposed to a finger in the air 🙂 ) I have found some better output which matches more closely the original Unisys data, so hopefully accuracy (or inaccuracy depending on your viewpoint !) returns.

General Weather Situation

So as commented earlier we start the week unsettled, milder and windier after an Atlantic low pressure pushes over the U.K and Ireland on Monday. After that though the radar looks clear and that tallies with a forecast that suggests skies will clear and the sun will come out. The further west you are the milder it will get, with temperatures forecast to climb into double figures by lunchtime. A strong, south westerly wind as well so it wouldn’t surprise me if we see some blustery showers later but around dusk the wind changes to a north-westerly as high pressure briefly nudges in from the continent to give a cool night with a risk of ground frost.

Onto Tuesday and after a quiet night, we see the next Atlantic low pressure lining up to grace us with its presence. Into Kerry early doors, it’ll push across Ireland in time for the morning queue on the M50 and then the heaviest rain will push into The South West and South Wales mid-morning (just what you guys need…not). By lunchtime that rain will be across the south of England and most of Wales. Further north we will see rain pushing into the north-west and west of Scotland as well, pushed on by a strengthening wind in the afternoon that swings round to the south-west. By late afternoon, the forecast projects the rain will be across Ireland, heaviest in the west and most of the U.K, with the exception of the far north of Scotland. One of those days when it’ll get milder as we progress so after a cool start it’ll be into double figures again for Ireland and the west. Cooler across Central England, the north and Scotland and like Monday, it’ll be cool enough for some of that rain to fall as wintry showers across elevation. So 6-11°C looks like the temperature range, always milder to the west and windy from the south-west.

Mid-week beckons and with it Wednesday which looks a better day for most of the U.K and Ireland, with only the last of that rain clearing the south-east early doors. Scotland will see some rain, wintry showers across the north and west and this will try to push inland but largely stay isolated to the west coast. Ireland starts sunny but through the morning expect some showers to push into the west and Midlands before moving east to affect Leinster. Aside from the wintry showers across north-west Scotland, the remainder of the U.K looks to be dry all day on Wednesday so a nice one after the onslaught of snow and rain. Late in the day, possibly after dusk we may see some rain push into south Ireland and England. A moderate south-westerly wind in situ keeping things mild with temperatures ranging from 9-11°C.

Thursday sees the next Atlantic low line up on the shores of Ireland and expect showers across the west mainly throughout the day. Further inland it should stay dry and sunny across the east of Ireland. For the U.K, a messy picture really with rain moving into Wales, the north-west and west of Scotland, mid-morning. Almost in tandem we see rain push more inland across Ireland and the same for the U.K, reaching the West Midlands but maybe not much further east. So the majority of rain will be westerly on Thursday with some showers pushing inland p.m. Still that mild south-westerly wind, moderate to strong, with temperatures similar to Wednesday at 9-11°C.

Closing out the week Friday sees a continuation of that unsettled picture with rain from the off across the north-west and north / mid-Wales. Some of that rain may try to push inland across northern England giving some wintry showers across The Pennines during late morning. By the afternoon the dry, mild start that Ireland has enjoyed is brought to an end by a rain front pushing into Kerry. This will move north and east through the late afternoon, early evening and amounts will be heavy. By evening it’ll be into The South West and then overnight into Saturday it will cross the U.K pushing up from the south-west of England into Wales and then northern England by Saturday early doors. We will be bailing our boats out for sure. Continuing mild with similar temperatures to Thursday and a strengthening south west wind getting up to gale force overnight into Saturday.

So no surprise with late Friday’s forecast that the outlook for the weekend is unsettled with Saturday looking very wet for Wales, the west of England, possibly south-east Munster and northern England later. It really depends on the trajectory the rain ends up taking but since this is a NE tracking low pressure, it’s normally the west and north that’s in the firing line. Scotland will I think miss most of the rain on Saturday but it will dull and cloudy instead with some wintry showers over elevation. After clearing the rain front on Saturday morning, it’ll be a sunshine and showers day for Ireland I think but cooler than of late as the wind swings more north-westerly. Sunday looks to continue that unsettled pattern with the low sitting off the north-west of Scotland pushing in rain across Ireland and most of the U.K through the course of the day. I think Scotland will miss the worst of this although you’ll still see some showers pushing through. So a sunshine and showers day with some heavier rain for some on Sunday and a south-west wind for most of the weekend, strongest on Saturday where it will be gale force in places.

As mentioned at the start of this blog I have some new output to work with which puts me more in my comfort zone when looking beyond 7 days. For this I am indebted to Meteocentre.com, Canada for permission to use their output in this blog. Merci beaucoup mes amis.

Weather Outlook

So looking at the graphic above for the start of next week you can see low pressure is sat very firmly over the U.K and that means unsettled with westerly winds for the southern half of the U.K and easterlies for the north. So a wet start to next week I think with plenty of rain spread over the U.K and Ireland, some of it heavy. Tuesday looks a drier day for Ireland and the west but still a chance of rain and showers for the east of the U.K. Wednesday sees some heavy rain push into the west of Ireland and move eastwards but high pressure is projected to build over the continent and that will begin to nudge that rain away through mid-week and introduce more settled conditions across the south and central U.K. By Thursday we have high pressure in charge so that means drier, calmer, more settled conditions extending into Ireland and Scotland. Since we will be sitting on the leading edge of the high pressure I think southerly winds and mild (ish) will be the norm for the close of next week.

So there you have it, starting unsettled and finishing settled, let’s see how accurate that is this time next week.

Agronomic Notes

GDD Comparison – Thame Location

So we start off with having a look back at January 2019, already a month down in what will be our 10th year of running comparative GDD. Looking at the above we have a pretty low score for January, not the lowest, that honour goes to the early SSW-influenced, January 2010, but Jan 2019 will go down as a cool month on the whole, similar to 2017 really. High pressure dominated the month so as you’ll see from the GDD stats for both the U.K and Ireland, it was cool and noticeably dry.

GDD & Rainfall Comparison – U.K Locations

Bit of a southerly bias to the data but there you go..

The graph above tells a story though with pretty universally low GDD for the 9 locations I collated.

Nantwich, Cheshire gets the prize for the mildest, I’d love to say that it’s due to the presence of my old mucker, Mr Butler’s endearing warm nature, but I won’t :).

Surprisingly, the furthest south-westerly location, Okehampton is the coldest, being on the edge of Dartmoor I think means normally a very wet but obviously pretty cold location as well. Dry though for January with many locations reporting their driest month for 14 years.

GDD & Rainfall Comparison – Irish Locations

Ah dear old Valentia, this location never fails to deliver the mildest and the wettest location in our Irish dataset. Away from this we see pretty similar GDD across Ireland with all the locations showing around double the GDD of the U.K. This is to be expected as the centre of the cold weather was over the continent and so the further east you are, the cooler it gets. The converse applies. Rainfall patterns were pretty consistent, much lower than the deluge of December 2018, but Cork and Claremorris still came in towards the top of the pile. If you look at Cork, Wexford, Dublin, going up the south-east coast of Ireland, you can see the rainfall pattern drop away, with Dublin picking up just 30% of the rainfall that Cork received in January 2019.

Disease activity, snowfall and rapid thawing….All in a days work…

It is worth reflecting on some other features of January away from weather and GDD stats. I refer of course to the continued disease pressure courtesy of that Atlantic high (long since shoved off down south) that brought us such aggressive activity between Christmas and The New Year and then returned the favour towards the end of January with more mild, humid air.

This mild, humid air followed a very rapid thaw on golf courses and pitches, many of which in the south of England were under snow 2 days previously. The combination of rapid temperature rise and flat-lined 100% humidity caused both new Microdochium nivale activity and re-activity around the periphery of old scars.

So it’s not surprising that many clubs saw disease activity and further scarring during the month. What I do find surprising and a bit of a riddle is the nature of the disease activity across a site. Here’s a couple of pictures from one location.

OK, at first sight, so what, we have all seen Microdochium nivale on greens ?

The strange thing for me is that this green is the only one of 19 affected on the site. It has good airflow, no immediately obvious microclimate and actually of 4 greens tested for surface organic matter in the top 0-25mm / 25-50mm, it was the lowest of the set. Now don’t get me wrong, it was still higher than you’d like to see (hence the sand-filled Graden work performed on the 7th January), but I can’t put surplus surface organic matter forward as the cause for this disease outbreak. In fact if I collated feedback from many customers this winter, the opposite is true. That is to say, the highest organic matter greens, the ones sitting soft and wet are largely clean and the lower O.M ones, the worst-affected across many sites.

Now this is the polar opposite to what we’d expect to see surely ?

It got me thinking that we are spending a lot of time and money focussing on disease management, both with fungicide and non-fungicide options, cultural work and the like, but are we really dealing with the cause or just running around fire-fighting the symptoms ?

I tell you what really got me wondering if we are on the right track and bear with me on this one, it was an article in New Scientist on Alzheimers, a form of Dementia, one of the only 2 publications incidentally that my brain can absorb from a reading perspective every week. (the other one being Motorcycle News :))

Currently with this condition there is no effective medical treatment, the big Pharma have poured millions into trying to solve it to no avail. The phenomenon they have concentrated on is the eradication of the Amyloid and Tau proteins that accumulate in the brains of sufferers of this disease. And so far they have failed, with the only treatment available being cognitive behaviour therapy and environmental management. (light, etc)

So I was dumbfounded to read in New Scientist that some researchers believe they have identified the causal agent and it is so left field it is hard to believe. It turns out that one of the key bacteria that can cause gum disease – Porphyromonas gingivalis –  may also be the primary agent behind Alzheimers. It may be (there’s always a caveat with research) that the proteins mentioned above are not the cause of the disease, rather they are a symptom and a reaction to the above bacterial organism.  Eradicate the bacteria and we may be able to prevent the disease. You can read about it here

OK, so what is that to do with Microdochium nivale ?

Well I think we are focusing too much on management of the symptoms and not the cause. Yes, we know the pathogenic fungi responsible for the disease but why are we seeing this disconnect between different cultural scenarios and disease activity ? If we can crack that one it may help us manage the disease longer-term, long after I have hung up my boots and committed this blog to history. I don’t have the answer but I think we are looking in the wrong place, in the wrong way, possibly.

Disease Pressure

Just before I leave this subject, it looks like overnight Wednesday we may have some temporary disease pressure as the wind drops back and humidity and temperature stay high. It shouldn’t last too long and may just be restricted to some localised activity around existing scars but be on your guard all the same.

Surface instability and root shearing

The weather dynamic I described earlier will unfortunately lead to a tricky day or two for our industry because we are undergoing a scenario of rapid surface thawing due to rainfall sitting over a frozen rootzone. When I took some O.M samples last Wednesday morning some greens were already frozen down 3cm and with the very hard frosts at the end of last week / weekend, I would expect this to have gone deeper. With mild rain falling on frozen ground and sitting on the surface, the upper layer will thaw quickly but if subjected to force (foot and buggy traffic) will shear very easily and become ‘plastic’ in nature. Once the thaw extends deeper into the rootzone, stability will increase. It’s a bit like laying washed turf and sod cut 50mm thick, the former is very unstable until it has rooted, the latter is stable straight away. Not only can this process cause lateral root shear but it is also very dangerous from a Health & Safety standpoint and remember anybody falling over will have a pretty hard landing.

Enjoy your wet and mild week and let us see what the weather will hold in store this time next week.

All the best.

Mark Hunt

 

 

Jan 28th

Hi All,

After the first snow of winter last week for many we face another wintry week on the cards with an increasing chance of more snow as we progress through the week with Tuesday and Thursday looking particularly likely for more of the white stuff. Thanks to Sean for this cracking picture and I bet people were still ringing up to see if the course was open 🙂

Whilst many of the tabloids are heralding this as a start of the ‘Beast from the East’, the science does not support this currently with great inconsistency between the different long-term (10 – 14 day) forecasts. Looking at the weekend just gone we had that Atlantic high pressure nudge in again and bring mild air up from The Mediterranean pushing temperatures up into double figures before dropping back again. Time will of course be the best judge but my feeling at present is that we haven’t seen an onset of the same dominant weather pattern we saw after the Sudden Stratospheric Warming event in January 2018.

General Weather Situation

Now I’ll start the my commentary on the general weather situation with a caveat and it’s one that relates to snowfall, how much and where. Of all the weather parameters, I think snowfall is the most difficult to predict and my advice is always to look on the weather radar to see where it is occurring and just as importantly, where it is heading on the day. So without further ado, onto Monday’s weather and looking out of my office windows I see a lovely dawn approaching with clear blue skies and a slight frost.

So for most of the U.K we start Monday bright, clear and frosty with a widespread frost but already there’s a heightened risk of snow along north-eastern and eastern coasts. For Ireland there’s more cloud cover courtesy of a weak rain front moving from west to east. This will likely turn to sleet and snow across elevation through the morning. A settled day aside from this across the U.K with long spells of winter sunshine and just a risk of an isolated snow shower along eastern coasts. For Ireland the rain front continues to push eastwards clearing the west by lunchtime and leaving just a threat of wintry showers across the mountains of Wicklow / Leinster by dusk. A cold, fresh, north-west wind in situ will keep temperatures pegged down in the 4-6°C range with a pronounced windchill.

Overnight we see that weak front push wintry showers into north-west Scotland and Wales and these will consolidate across central northern England stretching from the Pennines up to northern Scotland. By dawn on Tuesday we will see another band of rain, sleet and snow across Ireland and these will push rapidly across the Irish Sea into Wales and the north-west of England, Wales and Scotland by mid-morning. Now there is plenty of conjecture whether this moisture will turn up as rain, sleet or snow but I think it’s looking more like rain, sleet on the whole except over elevation of course. By lunchtime Tuesday the showers have crossed east into north-east England / Scotland, but also across Wales and The South West, more likely falling as rain across the latter. As we close out Tuesday that band of moisture has a south-easterly tilt and here I think it may increasingly turn to snow as temperatures drop on Tuesday evening.  The northerly end of this moisture may cover The Midlands and East Anglia as well, so a threat of rain turning to snow on Tuesday evening here. Like I said at the start of this blog, your best option is to watch it on the radar and track its path and intensity if you are concerned. Similar temperatures to Monday initially with a westerly wind which spins round north-westerly as we approach dusk and it is this that will drop the temperature and increase the risk of snow.

Into Wednesday and with clearing skies across the U.K and Ireland we will see a pretty hard frost I think, so some tricky driving conditions first thing Wednesday after that overnight moisture. Almost a re-run of Tuesday with wintry showers crossing Ireland and already into The South West,  Wales and The Lakes as the sun comes up. Further east it’ll be a calm start to the day and they’ll less in the way of moisture around mid-week. The north-west of Scotland will see a mix of rain, sleet and snow move in during the morning and this will push south into south-west Scotland by lunchtime. Ireland will clear through the morning with the main front of wintry showers confined to Cork and Wexford I think before moving off into The Irish Sea by lunchtime. This band of wintry showers will then push into West Wales and The South West during the afternoon, but it will be on a southerly trajectory so shouldn’t push too far inland. Many areas will see plenty of winter sun on Wednesday but that moisture over Scotland will continue to push south across The Borders and into The North East by dusk leading to some wintry showers overnight for northern England. 2-4°C on Wednesday with a fresh westerly wind providing significant windchill.

Onto Thursday, my aren’t we getting a clip on (aided by a cup of Kenco Costa Rican instant mind) and after a reasonably quiet mid-week, we have another low pressure in bound and this one promises to probably bring the most snow with it. So by dawn on Thursday morning this low is already across Ireland bringing a mix of rain, sleet and snow and strong winds so a wet day for Ireland on Thursday. Further east we have a settled and dry start to the day with another hard penetrating frost across England, Wales and Scotland. By lunchtime that weather picture will be changing though as that moisture pushes into The South West and South Wales and rapidly pushes eastwards covering the whole of the southern half of the country by the evening rush hour. Now the question is and will be as we move closer to Thursday, where exactly is in the firing line ?

Image courtesy of Meteoblue https://www.meteoblue.com/en/weather/map/precipitation/united-kingdom

Image courtesy of WXCHARTS https://www.wxcharts.com

If I pick 2 weather models, WxCharts and Meteoblue, you can see there’s disagreement between the exact path of that low pressure system with the former showing a more northerly aspect and the latter, more southerly. What that tells me is that currently we aren’t certain. They also both show a mixture of rain, sleet and snow so there’s another variable. My guess is we will see rain first turning more to snow as we progress through the evening.

As that low moves in we will see the wind change from westerly to easterly through the course of the day and that’ll have another bearing on temperatures and snowfall in my books. Whatever it’ll be a bitter day with temperatures not much above freezing and a negative windchill. Wrap up well.

So finishing off the week on Friday, that mix of rain, sleet and snow is still with us overnight into Friday so by dawn we may see quite some accumulation across the southern half of the U.K extending up into northern England. Ireland looks to finish the week with a penetrating frost and clear, crisp and sunny. So Friday sees a west-east and north-south divide with Ireland and Scotland looking to have a clear, cold and dry day and England and Wales set for some wintry showers and wintry sunshine. That said I think they are more likely to persist across eastern coasts and down into The South East, possibly turning to rain later before turning back to snow on Friday evening across the far south east. Lot’s of uncertainty here both in location and type of moisture. So another very cold day with a strong wind and pronounced windchill.

Key will be the path of the low in determining whether the rain, sleet and snow will have a southerly or northerly influence.

…………………..

So onto the weekend and would you believe the start of the fly fishing season at Thornton reservoir near Leicester !!

I think the picture below will be accurate for the snow, but they’ll be a lot less water in the reservoir courtesy of the dry summer and autumn / winter and maybe the Trout won’t oblige ? 🙂 (And yes I couldn’t feel my fingers !)

So how does the weekend look ?

Well Saturday looks windy from the north-west and dry for most of the U.K and Ireland. I say most because there’s still a risk that low will push wintry showers into Scotland overnight into Saturday and that these may still be present by dawn. Eastern coasts will also share an increased risk of snow showers through the day, but for most it will be bright, dry and bitingly cold with temperatures not getting much above 3-4°C during the day because of the strong north-westerly wind. Sunday looks similar but with an increased risk of rain across the south and west of Ireland and this threatens to push across The Irish Sea into Wales, The South West and later England by close of play Sunday. Maybe just maybe feeling slightly milder on Sunday as that low pulls in milder air from The Atlantic. So possibly 5-7°C despite the continued presence of a very strong, north-westerly wind.

Weather Outlook

So last week Unisys Weather stopped producing their GFS 10-day output that I have relied upon for years to interpret. It may be back some time in the future but as usual with big American corporations they don’t tell you anything other than what’s written on the website, which isn’t a lot. So I’m going to move on to WXCHARTS for my output and it will be their GIF appearing at the top of the blog, thanks to them for their courtesy in letting me use their output. Thanks also to Metman James for his continued output on Twitter, it really helps to try and pull the threads together for what I think is an uncertain picture.

The above is a schematic of the various weather models and the output relates to pressure so when you see a dip below the dotted line it is indicating low pressure, unsettled conditions and above it a move to high pressure, more settled conditions, usually dry, cold, frosty for this time of year.  So you can see the models tend to point towards more settled conditions from the weekend going into next week and that’s good because so does the output of WXCHARTS. Their output below suggests high pressure is set to form over the U.K from the beginning of next week and hold station for pretty much the whole week.

So next week looks to start off reasonably dry and settled across Ireland and the west but we will still have that low pressure sitting over the south-east of England so expect unsettled conditions for the east and south-east on Monday as that low gradually drifts off into the continent. High pressure then takes over with dry, settled conditions and if skies clear, a frost for Monday night.  Late on Tuesday, a rain front pushes into Ireland and this heads west to affect the north and western half of the U.K through Wednesday falling as snow again at elevation I think. The winds will be northerly in nature as they are for the leading edge of a high pressure system so it’ll remain very cold. On Thursday the winds will change to easterly and that’ll prevent the front from progressing too much further east but it will also mean a greater risk of snow on the leading edge of that front. So I think a mainly dry end to next week with a predominantly easterly airflow keeping temperatures down.

So this is my first go at interpreting different output and we will see how accurate it is, to me it’s like learning a new language after all those years with Unisys.

Agronomic Notes

BTME

Thanks to everyone who dropped by our stand at BTME 2019 last week and to those who attended my talk on the Tuesday. Thanks Sami for sorting arrangements !

As usual I was pretty nervous and my heart rate jumped from 45 to 90 just before I started my stint !

Yes, it was a different layout, sometimes to me it felt a little like trying to get out of IKEA, but I think we have to try something different for our industry and BIGGA should be applauded for that.

Lastly, I can only apologise for anyone within earshot of a certain Adi Masters on Tuesday night. Many of you will know that Adi likes a sing-song and so it was in the restaurant and hotel bar to the wee hours. Unfortunately his repartee seemed to be limited to Bohemian Rhapsody and American Pie, but he knows every verse 🙁

Disease pressure and tricky conditions underfoot

The image above (aah Unisys I miss you) was included in my BTME presentation and showed the source of the warm air and humidity that made life so tricky from a disease perspective between Christmas and The New Year.

Well exactly the same thing happened at the end of last week with high pressure again pulling in mild, humid air into the U.K and Ireland.

Here’s the schematic at midday on Friday last week and you can see the same phenomenon….

So we saw a rapid rise in air temperature above hard, frozen ground (some with snow cover) at the start of the day from freezing to mild, balmy (barmy) and humid by the afternoon.

That gave us some really tricky conditions from a playability perspective with a thawing surface layer on top of a frozen base. Always difficult to manage from a player and health & safety perspective.

The graph below from my Netatmo Weather Station highlights the rapid transition perfectly ;

It is no surprise then that this rapid increase in temperature caused increased activity of Microdochium nivale.

Recently I conducted some research work looking at the growth of Microdochium nivale mycelium in response to air temperature and it is particularly relevant to this type of scenario.

At an air temperature of 11°C, Microdochium nivale is growing at around 75% of the rate it is growing at 15°C, so it is easy to see why this sort of weather dynamic led to increased disease activity on many sites, particularly those where existing scarring was already present. Thankfully the disease peak was short-lived because by Saturday lunchtime the wind strengthened and the humidity and temperature began to drop to a point where on Sunday morning we were just 1.5°C. So another disease peak, this time in late January, boy it is one long disease season 🙁

Thankfully the outlook for the foreseeable is for low disease pressure and although the projection is for high pressure to establish next week, it will be pulling in northerly and easterly air so by no means warm and humid as we have experienced recently.

Dry January ?

After last week at BTME I’m not referring to your likely alcohol consumption for the rest of this month though it might well be apt, I am talking about the lack of rain.

Now I know the rainfall has been westerly / south-westerly / northerly biased, but it’s a fact that The Midlands and areas further south and east are experiencing a dry winter. January may indeed go down as the driest for a number of years with only 13.5mm measured in my rain gauge so far this month and 19mm for Birmingham (thanks Jon).

Looking at some weather station output across the south and east, I found the following rainfall totals ;

Milton Keynes   19mm   / Camberley   30.5mm   / Reigate  17.8mm  / Sevenoaks  15mm  / Braintree 16mm  / Norwich 41mm

Now I know plenty of you have had more rain than this and in itself this type of weather is great for cracking on with winter project work and for playability on the golf course but the lack of water continues to worry me.

If we run into February with a high pressure blocking pattern that will mean a drier than usual month and if (hopefully) by March temperatures are on the rise, we will be back into positive E.T. Now yes there are lots of presumptions there but I harbour a concern that reservoirs are 30-40% down on where they normally would be for this time of year and we will go into this spring / summer on the back foot from a water reserves perspective in some areas of the country.

Dove-tail that in with the U.K governments fixation on building new houses everywhere (whilst not bothering to invest in infrastructure mind) and the increased requirement for water from domestic homeowners and you have a recipe for water restrictions.

I can remember the last time this happened and the golf industry for one wasn’t particularly well treated from my recollection.

Remember also we went into the autumn / winter with the most significant dry-down of rootzones on outfield for 40 years, so there’s plenty of very dry soil out there once you scratch below the surface. Plenty of these areas still need to recover before the summer so let us hope we have good amounts of rain before the drying cycle begins again.

Ok that’s it for this week, if all goes to plan we should be set on a 1p.m. publishing time for the blog provided nothing goes wrong from an I.T perspective and of course I get it finished before then !!!

All the best for the coming week, wrap up well, watch your rain (snow) radar to keep abreast of the likely track of the weather on Tuesday and Thursday p.m. in particular and above all, stay safe. I use Netweather for this purpose but there’s plenty of other good radar weather sites out there. You can find the basic service here.

Mark Hunt

 

 

 

January 21st

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